Repetitive & Redundant, Repetitive & Redundant

Building Redundancies Into Your Preps

In the military we were taught, “Two is one, one is none.” It was stressed that if you only have one of something important you can’t depend on it; it will eventually break, fail, be lost, or stolen. We can’t even imagine all the ways something can break or fail. And, according to the infamous Murphy, that failure will happen at the worst possible time. Everything works before it breaks.

Does this mean we need to have two, or more, of everything? Of course not. Mostly we are referring to what the military would call ‘mission essential gear’. Stuff you need to have–or really want to have–to overcome foreseeable challenges. In the military, a weapon and a radio are examples of mission essential gear; if one of those items fail, the mission will likely also fail. So look at your preps and ask yourself, which items are ‘mission essential’?

We still don’t have to have two of every essential item. Yes, some things you’ll need to have extras, but others you can have an alternative that will work. I don’t feel the need to carry two identical pocketknives in case I lose or break one. I can carry one pocketknife and one multi-tool–which also serves additional purposes–and have a backup knife. Start by analyzing your five basic needs: 1) food, 2) water, 3) shelter, 4) security, and 5) energy and decide how much redundancy you need to build into each system. Some are already in place, i.e. if your freezer goes out, you still have your non-perishable foods; if your water filter breaks, you can still boil water.

Also important to consider is where you store your redundancies. If you have five ways to make fire, all carried in one pouch; yeah one is none. All your food preps in the basement and it floods; all your guns in a gun safe and it electronically fails.

But it’s a hassle to be redundant. “Dammit, I finally have one and now you’re telling me I have to get two?” Or, “They’re all nice and neat there together and I don’t have space to put them in two (or three) separate locations.” And if two is better than one, is three better than two, and four even better? Decide for yourself–doing your best to filter out paranoia–at what point do you feel safe and prepared? Don’t get too carried away; even if you have the money and space, rotating all those extra items can become a resented inconvenience.

Stuff is transient; redundancy in knowledge and skills is critical also. Knowing more than one way to do something significantly increases the chance of success. Have a backup plan. Being mentally and physically prepared will allow you to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

There is an old army joke about a combat soldier getting two wishes from a genie. He thinks and decides he wants a magazine for his rifle that never runs out of bullets, and poof it is laying in his hand. The genie asks for the second wish, after pondering the soldier says proudly “I want another one…”

Book Review: Alas, Babylon

Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank, was among the original TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World as We Know it) novels. It was written in 1959 about 1959. It was a time of national prosperity, racial segregation, and during the peak of the Cold War. A time of peace, but when people lived daily with the threat of global nuclear war looming.

Then it actually happens, with almost no warning, the Soviets launch a preemptive full-scale nuclear strike against the United States and its allies. To the survivors, including the people in the small Central Florida town of Fort Repose, it was just known as “The Day.” The day when everything that was and everything they knew, changed forever.

Our protagonist, Randy Bragg, is the scion of a once prominent local family. Before, he was living a quiet life with very little purpose. After, he struggles to find his role as he becomes responsible for his brother’s family, then the neighbors – both white and “colored”, and ultimately the town. Randy has a couple of days warning (from his high-ranking military brother) and tries to stock up on extra supplies. It was insightful to see what he thought was important and what he didn’t get. He also tries to warn some close friends, but the response he receives, “So here comes our local Paul Revere . . .  What are you trying to do, frighten my wife and daughter to death?”, would probably be similar to the denial we’d see from family and friends.

For me, with my medical background, it was very interesting to read about Dr. Dan Gunn, the town’s only medical provider. About his initial struggles to take care of so many people, most of whom are still in denial. His knowledge that he has so little equipment and supplies and that once they’re gone, they’re gone. How he, the caregiver, pushes himself to almost complete physical collapse. And watching his naivety about his own safety, until he’s targeted for the drugs and supplies he might have.

As resources become scarce, cash becomes valueless. Even early on when it was still accepted for payment, stores quickly sold out and nothing new arrived. People barter for what they need; food, gasoline, ammunition, alcohol, precious metals, and even coffee become currency.

When the initial food stockpile is depleted, they struggle to produce their own. Randy laments, “The end of the corn and exhaustion of the citrus crop had been inevitable. Armadillos in the yams was bad luck, but bearable. But without fish and salt their survival was in doubt.” Some of their needs were obvious, of course they had to quickly locate a sustainable source of drinking water. But no one thought of what would happen when they ran out of salt, and the dire consequences. They had to provide their own security, not only against humans but also animals. They were creative how they rationed energy–fuel and batteries–and how they reacted when it finally, inevitably, ran out.

This book illustrated that mental and physical preparation are what are necessary to endure. Randy sums things up, “Survival of the fittest . . . The strong [and prepared] survive. The frail die. The exotic fish die because the aquarium isn’t heated. The common guppy lives. So does the tough catfish. . . . That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Buying Stuff Is Easy

“Mental and physical preparation. People die with all of the things they need to survive because they don’t maintain the will to survive. . . . the most important thing is the person using the technology.” This was recently emailed to me by one of my oldest and closest friends. In the military they taught us: improvise, adapt, and overcome. Knowledge and ability, once gained, are yours forever; stuff can be lost, broken, or taken away.

Though few of us can buy everything we’d like, the actual concept of saving up the money, going to the store, selecting, paying, and bringing it home is easy. It’s easy and we feel good because we now have this item; we believed we needed it for our preps, we saved for it, and now own it. But this is only a start, now we have to mentally and physically develop the skill set to use it. New items typically fall into one of two categories: it is something we are already familiar with and just need to figure out the new one, or it’s something we’ve never used before and need to learn a brand new skill (which take time and effort).

Mental preparation: developing a survival/can-do attitude and learning useful skill sets. Physical preparation: keeping yourself physically capable of surviving and accomplishing those skill sets.

We all have stuff sitting around our homes that we’ve bought but really don’t know how to use. We understand the basic concept and we’re fairly confident that if we needed to we could “figure it out”, but we haven’t taken the time to – yet. This can be a precarious position. Now that we’ve bought said item we feel we have checked off that box; there are other new and interesting things, to buy. Figuring it out “one of these days” frequently never quite happens.

It is imperative that we do “figure it out”. Take the time to learn the skill, then get your hands dirty and practice it – watching a video isn’t good enough. For example, It’s easy to buy a few 2x4s, some dirt, and a few seed packets; that is most everything needed to build and plant a raised bed garden. But how many more steps are there between buying and harvesting healthy vegetables?

What about the generator we’ve been told we need? Home generators are relatively simple to operate: add fuel, open fuel lines, choke, turn on, pull starter, and it should fire up. But, doing this for the first time in the dark is not simple nor stress-free. (That is not the time to realize you never stored any fuel.) What are you going to power with it, why, and for how long? Take the time to figure it out before the power fails. Consider developing your skill set further–and here I need to take my own advice–and learn some basic maintenance.

Or, one of the common prepper flaws: owning lots of guns, lots of ammo, and never having taking a defensive firearms course. “I know how to shoot” many will say, but how about shooting effectively in a high stress, low light, fatigue filled situation, where people might be hurt? Sure you can shoot the center out of the paper targets every time. Sure you assume that if the SHTF you’ll be just fine. But have you ever practiced for failure? What have you really done to mentally and physically prepare the skill set that could protect your family?

The list continues. You have the great BOB; can you carry it? Sure it’s in a quality backpack, but have you put it on, cinched it up and walked any distance? What about good footwear? You bought good boots; but finding out they needed breaking in when you are a mile into your ten-mile trek, is too late.

It was easy to buy it, but investing the time to learn new things, with our busy schedules and hectic lives, is tough – really tough. Especially when it all has to be self-motivated, there’s no ‘financial’ return, and you’re learning it for something that might happen, someday, maybe. So how do we self motivate? ‘Because we should’ isn’t (usually) good enough. Everyone knows they should exercise, eat right, etc. but you need to be able to articulate your own reason and goal.

I don’t have any brilliant insights to give you. You have to find that motivation; start with your plan. Set short-term achievable goals, working toward a reachable long-term goal; continue to eat that elephant “one bite at a time.” Begin with the Five Basic Needs and build from there. Yes, there are certain things you have to ‘get’, but, more importantly, you have to develop the skills to utilize those things and prepare yourself mentally and physically for the tasks that may be ahead.

(Wednesday: A List)