Are You Prepared For Survival?

BY Herschel Smith
10 months ago

Puerto Rico today:

All of Puerto Rico has lost power after deadly Hurricane Maria swept through the island on Wednesday – with winds that blew the roofs off homes and flash floods that turned roads into rivers.

Leaving at least nine people dead in its wake across the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria blew ashore in the morning in the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph.

While the eye of the storm has since moved off the island and weakened to a Category 2 hurricane, it’s expected to continue lashing the island of 3.4million with life-threatening winds, storm surge and rain through this evening.

‘Once we’re able to go outside, we’re going to find our island destroyed,’ said Abner Gomez, Puerto Rico’s emergency management director. ‘The information we have received is not encouraging. It’s a system that has destroyed everything in its path.’

It looks like dystopia, doesn’t it?

Two weeks ago it was a hard week trying to prepare for Hurricane Irma.  We managed to find a Generac 5500 generator when almost all generators had been sent to Texas.  Gas lines were long and prices were elevated, and gas cans were triple the cost from a month prior.  And then they were gone.  So it didn’t matter whether you could buy gas – you couldn’t store it.

We had to think about batteries, perishable food, trying to get non-perishable food, potable water, dog food (have you considered your beasts in the event of something like this?), and on and on the list goes.  To some extent we had the non-perishable food situation handled, but not well enough for my future comfort level.

I lived through Hurricane Hugo, and was without power for two weeks.  I wasn’t prepared for it either.  At the time it rolled through I was preparing for the engineering PE examination.  The exam date in October wasn’t going to change because of the storm, so I had to redeem the time.

I lined my kitchen table with candles and worked PE review problems for two weeks by candlelight (old school, pen and paper).  But I wasn’t going to relive my Hugo experience unprepared, so we worked hard to prepare.  I consider Hurricane Irma yet another warning shot over the bow.

For the future, we need to be thinking about more than just guns and ammunition (although that’s first on the list).  We need to think long term survival in the form of food caches, freeze-dried foods, large scale water filtration rather than the small scale I currently have, and you could probably add endlessly to this list.  Feel free to do so in the comments.

I am of the considered opinion that a hurricane is the least of our worries when considering the ills that may befall us in the future.  Puerto Rico won’t rebuild for years, and won’t have power for more than half a year, if then.  Are you prepared for an attack on our electrical grid?  For civil strife and/or civil war?  For contamination of our water supplies?  For a run on the banks and a completely devalued dollar?

No, neither am I.  Not as well as I ought to be.

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  1. On September 21, 2017 at 3:13 am, Nosmo said:

    Puerto Rico offers the opportunity for a very worthwhile society-wide study of preparedness and recovery; I have every confidence that Puerto Rico’s government will absolutely, totally, screw the pooch by the numbers, FUBARing everything it touches, in alphabetical order. That’s what governments do, there’s no reason to expect anything different this time, especially considering PR’s unmanageable debt that severely constricts what government can do.

    As example, an island centered in Hurricane Alley could reasonably be expected to plan for such an event by stockpiling critical supplies for power and water processing and distribution, including long-term planning cycles for simple things like replacing wooden power poles with oversize concrete ones, requiring backup generator capacity for critical operations like gasoline, kerosene amd propane distribution businesses, smaller, more widely located water reservoirs, etc. We’ll see soon how much of this was done.

    The greater examples of accomplishments will probably come from individuals and groups, some of them native to PR, some of them from outside. PR will constitute a mini-study of an EMP attack; not a complete one, because the generating capacity and related transformer infrastructure has not been completely destroyed; probably damaged, but recoverable. The major problem will be reconstituting the distribution network, including end user equipment, and everything will extend well beyond electricity to water, fuel, roads, food, etc.

    A lot can be gained from studying what happens over the next year. I suspect most of it will fall into the “don’t ever do this” category, but I also anticipate a great many small successes that, together, will turn out to be impressive.

  2. On September 21, 2017 at 4:56 am, DAN III said:

    This recent hurricane induced (ya think maybe the Russians conjured up this hurricane ?) debacle of bankrupt Puerto Rico is going to cost citizens hundreds of billions of dollars fUSA no longer has. Fedgov should have given PR the heave-ho decades ago. Now, the few remaining, working citizens of this once great nation, will be paying through the proverbial nose until death, for this non-productive, welfare-state, island territory. Not to mention the influx of PR citizens, most likely in the millions, invading the mainland.

    But hey, we got to continue fighting a 25+ year old war in the Middle East while Rome is burning all around us. Amerika is in deep, deep, deep dung.

  3. On September 21, 2017 at 7:12 am, mudflap said:

    Ok, I ordered one of these when it was very early in the development process for $130: . It’s a water distiller that works based on the difference between the air and ground temperature to condense water vapor in the air. Testing shows it produces about 9 gallons of water per day, and it is designed for use in places like Africa. They now want $700, but it’s basically just a 6′ metal cylinder that is 3/4 buried in the ground- I’m sure an enterprising person could come up with something similar.

    Ice was something everyone wanted when the 2011 tornadoes wiped out power for a week here in Alabama. Solar was something I thought would be difficult to figure out, but a friend showed me how to tie power into just one breaker in my house – the one for the fridge. It’s not that hard- almost anyone could run power to just the fridge breaker and have cold food. A solar panel system from harbor freight tied into just the fridge, and running off a couple of car batteries wouldn’t cost more than $200.

    Make sure you have a fence that goes all the way around your property and park your vehicles inside the fence at night, and let your dog wander around anytime he wants. Or better yet, make the move to get out of the city. Your commute will be a bit longer, but living through a grid down situation for only a week gave me all the motivation I needed to get out. You wouldn’t believe the amount of crime that goes on during a grid down- and none of it got reported- people from outside the area have no idea how much crime happens when cops had their hands full. Seriously, get out of the city.

  4. On September 21, 2017 at 7:39 am, SWRichmond said:

    $100 of Billions will be spent.

    Most of it will be looted / wasted.

    Fortunes will be made by the well-connected.

    The island will depopulate into CONUS.

    Everything government touches turns to sh*t.

  5. On September 21, 2017 at 7:58 am, Seasoned_Citizen said:

    ‘zackly But, what about a large measure of we “fly-over” folks, who, for centuries, have prepared for: storm, flood, wind, rain, tornado, and below-zero temps with feet of the “white death?”

    We will have our pockets picked (under penalty of being put in a metal cage) and have our “voluntary taxes” sent to PR (and God knows wherever) for “disaster relief.” Much like the ME “disaster wars” we got conned into.

    Hey! When was the last time some Puerto Rican or Iraqui dude plowed me out of my snow-bound ranch at -25*F in a howling wind? HELL NO!

    Cue the faces of fly-covered chilln’ crying with the violins in the background. GIMME, GIMME your tax money or, hell, just print it up Janet Y.

    Every minute of every waking day, you CHOOSE where to live. Ain’t my problem you choose to live in Hurricane Alley. It’s THEIR problem. They don’t seem to give a hoot in Hades for where I live…..

  6. On September 21, 2017 at 8:32 am, JOHN STEBBINS said:

    Good article. People forget things like… everything in a pharmacy over the counter….AND anti-biotics. Not just creams, but the 4 or five 5 major anti-b’s . Find a doc who will give you scripts for “your hunting camp in the outback”. Infections kill without treatment. My doc understands why i want tbem and he is totally in agreement.

  7. On September 21, 2017 at 9:28 am, Joshua Smith said:

    In my opinion, the most serious, likely threat to our nation that involves civil unrest and upheaval of infrastructure is a solar storm created by a coronal mass ejection.

    Why? Because they happen all the time, and we have already experienced what happens to electrical infrastructure first-hand. See: The Carrington Event of 1859. That a solar storm will impact our planet is an absolute given. It will occur, and it will decimate our infrastructure. The only question is when.

    A less probable, but still worrisome threat is an EMP generated by a high-altitude, airblast detonation of a nuclear warhead. The entire contiguous 48 are susceptable to that in the extreme. The only defense is to shoot such a device out of the air before it arrives, but the military has demonstrated only partial success there. Of course, if a device were deployed from orbit with an extreme trajectory, then there’s basically nothing at all we can do about it.

  8. On September 21, 2017 at 9:37 am, lan said:

    Why is it most people in hurricane country only prepare 24-48 hours before a storm? That’s not preparing, that’s panic. Where you decide to live dictates what you need to prep for in advance. It’s not rocket science.

  9. On September 21, 2017 at 9:39 am, Joshua Smith said:

    Also, regarding “prepping,” I’ll add this:

    While I agree that some preparation for a short amount of time is useful, let’s not forget what General Patton had to say about fixed fortifications. It rings even more true for fixed but unfortified positions with finite defensive resources and no supply lines.

    I believe in mobility as the ultimate answer to preparedness.

  10. On September 21, 2017 at 10:40 am, johnmc said:


    Save your $700. This thing has been proven a hoax — Berkley which sponsored the engineering team has since disavowed them.

  11. On September 21, 2017 at 1:04 pm, Lineman said:

    I am of the considered opinion that a hurricane is the least of our worries when considering the ills that may befall us in the future…
    Did you ever consider whats going to happen if a hurricane hits on top of one of those ills… The majority of people have no forward thinking whatsoever…They live in the now and if something happens they are like deer in the headlights…I read on survivalblog about a woman who didn’t forsee that when the four lane highway got clogged that traffic might be rerouted down her road and I just have to shake my head and think really you couldn’t of grabbed a map beforehand and did a little “what if” and calculate whether or not your on drift line…I wonder if anyone does that anymore and calculate the odds of xyz happening and negate it as much as possible…Like others have said if you are relying anyone else whether it be for food, fuel, water, shelter, etc then your at their mercy if SHTF…If I can figure it out you can too…

  12. On September 21, 2017 at 2:12 pm, mudflap said:

    regarding the waterseer, I’ve seen all the videos. I only paid $130 for mine. The naysayers can naysay all they want, but every morning when I leave for work, I’ll bet there’s over a gallon of dew on my car: the principle of the thing is correct. The waterseer team has already published trial results for their prototype. They are involved in final testing now of the finished product, and will begin shipping to the early adopters (like myself) before the end of the year. They are also going to publish final test results at that time. I’ll let you know if I get ripped off or not :)

    Whether I get 9 gallons or 4 gallons is still better than 0 gallons. Here’s a middle-ground article from popular science ( that answers the questions from the youtube video. As an “early adopter” I get inside updates from the waterseer team- it appears they are implementing a solar powered cooling device to gain more condensing action as noted in the popsci article.

    While not a portable solution, this idea is great for a stay-in-place grid down situation. Access to clean water is the #1 need in a long term emergency, in my opinion. I strongly recommend everyone has a “clean water” plan that works for them.

  13. On September 21, 2017 at 3:54 pm, Pat Hines said:

    Preparedness is a process, not an end game. You will never be “fully prepared”, if you think you are, you’re setting yourself up for a rude awakening.

    Our worse power outage occurred when we were moved into this home for almost two months, barely enough time to get accustomed to the home environment. It was the “Ice Storm of 2005”, no power for 6 days. A bad business.

    We’ve lost power for short periods numerous times since then, but never more than 36 hours.

    Last year, finally, I purchased the largest “portable” generator made by Generac (other than their featureless commercial units), a 10kw unit. Then I had the local generator specialists run the wiring for the outside inlet box, and install the manual panel. It powers most things other than the heat pumps. I’ve used it by requirement three times in the year since installation. The peace of mind supplied by having electrical power on call is worth every penny spent, about $3500.00 all together, the gen set was about $2200.00, installation was the rest. This was in the summer of 2016.

    We’ve always had methods of having cooking water, via a gas grill with side burner. Now that I have a large, semi-build in major grill, the one with the Side burner is an auxiliary unit.

    We have a constant flow spring on the property, so somewhat clean water is available, and I have a water purifying filter pump that will remove ALL bacteria and parasites from the otherwise crystal clear water. True, its a manual process, but it will do.

    Stored food is the easiest to do, just keep it cool and dry. Wild game will round out our protein requirements.

    Oh, and last, we don’t live in town, at all.

  14. On September 21, 2017 at 4:29 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    We no longer live in Charlotte, but we do live in a small town. I know about where you are. I failed to mention my purchase of additional propane for grilling, but then again I didn’t mention an awful lot of went through to prepare. You’re right. You can never really be prepared. Just continually move towards that end.

    At 10kW, I don’t see why your generator won’t run the HVAC. Along with the Generac 5500 we had installed a disconnect and 30 amp outlet on the outside of the house, with 40′ of 40 amp cable (male connectors both ends) to my main panel, and upon loss of power I will connect, open the main breaker to the house from the grid, open all feeder breakers to house loads, start the generator, and then close feeders to the loads I want to run.

    It will run power to give me hot water, freezer and refrigerator loads, etc., but not all at one time. I would need a larger generator to supply the HVAC. For the time being, I have battery powered fans. It’ll have to made do. I can’t move to Idaho.

  15. On September 21, 2017 at 5:38 pm, Lineman said:

    Hey Herschel do me a favor and put a disconnect switch in so if your breaker fails you don’t kill guys like me…

  16. On September 21, 2017 at 5:43 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    Disconnect mentioned above.


    Read, much?

    The disconnect and opening the main breaker in the procedure is for keeping the grid from motoring the generator if power comes back while the generator is running. It’s for my protection, not yours. You don’t need protection from me.

  17. On September 21, 2017 at 5:45 pm, Lineman said:

    That was for your Generator was it not that’s the way it was wrote…

  18. On September 21, 2017 at 5:49 pm, Lineman said:

    So you have a disconnect switch between your main breaker and the grid?

  19. On September 21, 2017 at 7:19 pm, John said:

    I bought and read “A Failure Of Civility” a few years
    ago. It was very sobering and convinced me that
    if you want to survive in a world-wrecker crises
    you have your work cut out for you. To me, the
    most difficult thing the book recommended was
    finding like-minded individuals to bring into
    the extremely important neighborhood
    protective group that would act in proportional
    scale to the severity of the situation. I seem to
    be surrounded by bubble heads or people I
    would not trust near a stove, let alone a weapon.

  20. On September 21, 2017 at 8:37 pm, Dan Morgan said:


    Not a lot of meat in the comments section. Start with the basics: food, water, shelter. Many folks don’t have a good understanding of the vast amounts of food and water required to function in the long term. This comment does not address shelter/infrastructure/security. Having been closely involved in the relief efforts after Hurricane Andrew, the earthquake in Haiti and operations in Bosnia / Herzegovina I have found these to be of primary importance to the population involved. Security and infrastructure can be addressed in follow-on comments. How our government will deal with the sudden, complete loss of food/water/infrastructure/security in a stationary, typically non-productive population of 3.5 million will be very instructional.

    Water: I have made extensive field use of the Sawyer “Mini”. It will safely process up to 100,000 gallons of water for consumption. It is very low tech, light and portable. It is available online, in most backpacking stores, and can even be found in the camping section of Walmart. Price is less than $20.00. There is a larger version that will process up to 1,000,000 gallons. The only caution I will suggest when utilizing this filter is to hold the filter at an angle so that contaminated water will not drip from the dirty water container across the filter and onto the clean water container.

    Food: I have included amounts required daily and sources of each for planning purposes. One can choose to store the items in advance, raise them or combine the two.

    The average adult male needs 2800 calories daily to function properly in a moderately stressful environment. That’s gardening, hunting, and other manual type labor. The female needs roughly 2200 calories. Yearly, that’s 1,022,000 calories for the male adult and 803,000 for the female adult. In a very high stress, heavy manual labor environment, adjust accordingly. How one would calculate the requirements for trans-genders is beyond the scope of this comment. However you look at it, that’s either a large amount of stored calories, a large amount of crop and livestock production, or a combination of the two.

    Calories are only one part of the food equation. The typical 160 lb. adult male is made up of 100 lbs. water (covered above), 29 lbs. protein, 25 lbs. fat, 5 lbs. mineral, 1 lb, carbohydrate, and less than 1 oz. vitamins. Each must be constantly replenished.

    Proteins: 170 lb. male needs 64 grams daily while the 130 lb. female requires 47 grams. Complete proteins include: Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk. Rice and dry beans together provide the proper amino acids and protein.

    Carbohydrates (starches and sugars): Energy, muscle contraction. Primary source of calories, nutrients and fiber. 1 gram equals 4 calories. 2900 calories equals 360 grams of carbs.

    Fats: Stored in the body for later use as energy. Carriers of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K.Twice the calories per gram as proteins and carbohydrates. 30% of diet max.


    A – infection, night blindness. Meat liver, and dark green/orange fruits/ vegetables such as spinach and sweet potatoes.

    D – needed for calcium intake to avoid Rickets. Sunlight exposure, mushrooms.

    E – nervous system & reproduction. Plant oils, wheat germ, nuts.

    K – blood clotting. Green leafy vegetables.

    B1 Thiamine- metabolism of carbs. Avoid beri-beri. Cereals, wheat, nuts.

    B2 Riboflavin – growth/tissue repair. Avoid cataracts, anemia, birth defects. Milk, eggs, liver.

    B3 Niacin – release of carbs, protein for energy. Avoid pellagra. Fish, liver, turkey, cereals, peanuts.

    B6 – Metabolism, avoid cancer, diabetes, heart disease, anemia, dementia. Nuts, kidney, liver, pork, eggs, poultry, dried nuts and fish.

    B12 – Avoid anemia, infertility, nervously disorders, walking difficulties. Meat, fish, eggs, milk


    Calcium – dairy, green leafy vegetables. Bone growth, blood clotting.

    Phosphorus – cereals and protein. Energy transfer.

    Magnesium- tooth decay, muscle relaxation, energy transfer. Nuts, legumes, unmilled grains, green vegetables.

    Iron – transfer of oxygen in the cells, anemia, weak muscles, fatigue, listlessness. Liver, organ meats, beef, dried fruits, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, prune juice, whole grain cereals.

    Zinc – growth, stunted growth, delayed wound healing. Animal proteins, oysters, milk, egg yolks, whole grains.

  21. On September 21, 2017 at 8:39 pm, Joshua Smith said:

    I think Lineman is referring to a marked, accessible disconnect so that the utility can ensure there isn’t a backfeed occurring on their lines when they go to work on them.

    Of course, opening the main breaker prevents that, but there are some really dumb people out there, and I usually stumble on an article at least once a year about some line worker being electrocuted to death because he wasn’t wearing protective gear and some idiot on the street had left their main closed.

    Some municipalities disallow backfeeding a house altogether, while others require you to register the location of your transfer switch with the utility service.

  22. On September 21, 2017 at 9:38 pm, Lineman said:

    The thing is about a breaker is they are known to fail/short allowing current through them so even if you open it there is still the potential for current to flow back through it into the grid and hurting either lineman or your neighbors who are trying to remove the tree that’s blocking there driveway thats resting on the line…You need a disconnect so you can see the open.I was trying to be helpful but I guess HS took it wrong…

  23. On September 21, 2017 at 10:19 pm, Joshua Smith said:

    I would install one for liability reasons alone. I can guarantee homeowner’s insurance isn’t going to cover a single incident stemming from backfeeding the grid so long as there’s not an approved disconnect.

  24. On September 21, 2017 at 10:32 pm, Lineman said:

    Well involuntary manslaughter isn’t fun to deal with either…

  25. On September 21, 2017 at 10:38 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    But I have all of that. Let’s cover it once again.

    My generator will feed through a 30A four wire plug connected to a 40A cable (40A in order to minimize line losses). There are 30A plugs on both ends of this 40′ cable.

    This cable will plug into an outlet that runs through … A DISCONNECT … a breaker before it ever reaches the panel. Also before it reaches the bus, it runs through yet another breaker (30A) on the inside of the garage. So there is a power disconnect outside the house (lockable), and yet another one inside the house.

    The bus will be disconnected from the grid because the main breaker connecting the bus to the grid will be open. There is no chance of the grid motoring my generator. By procedure, I open the main breaker connecting my bus to the grid before I ever do anything else.

    I’m confused as to what’s confusing about this.

  26. On September 21, 2017 at 11:13 pm, Lineman said:

    Can you see the inside of your main breaker…All I am saying is you need a disconnect so you can see that it is open…You can’t trust the breaker..

  27. On September 21, 2017 at 11:30 pm, Lineman said:

    Also I don’t think your understanding about how you can hurt someone so I will explain it to you…The power that comes to your house is called distribution voltage and can range anywhere from 2400volts to 34.5KV…A transformer steps down that voltage to 120/240 volts for your house…When you fire up that generator because the power goes down its at the 120v or 120/240volts so your house can use it…Now the problem happens when that breaker is still on or faulty and it lets that voltage flow back into the grid and when it hits the transformer it steps it back up to the distribution voltage of 2400volts to 34.5kv and that is where people get hurt…

  28. On September 21, 2017 at 11:39 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    That’s okay. I know what a step-down transformer is. Worked around them my whole career. I’ve had my main breaker open and my bus is dead. It disconnects the bus from the grid.

    But I’ll give your suggestion for redundant disconnection consideration.

  29. On September 21, 2017 at 11:47 pm, Lineman said:

    Ive seen quite few fail so it is something that needs to be done if you want to be safe and not have any deaths or injury on your conscience not just for redundancy…If you were in my AO I would come over and install one for you…

  30. On September 22, 2017 at 12:02 am, Pat Hines said:


    The HVAC here would load the generator to about 9kw at start up (you must assume all will start at the same time), and while that’s within the 10kw’s 12kw surge capacity I always like more “head room” than minimum. There are 3 heat pumps here (don’t ask). The electrical service is 400 amps, via two standard 200 amp breaker boxes, the generator panel has 16 possible circuits. I throw a switch on the running gen set, and one on the generator panel (yes, it pulls the powered circuits off grid) and have power to the important systems.

    While there is a local Generac dealer, the same that did the wiring and panel installation, they advised me to have the 10kw shipped to me because it would arrive faster. They’re focused on permanent whole house generators that burn propane, so didn’t care if I purchased online, Amazon supplied the generator in just a few days.

  31. On September 22, 2017 at 12:19 pm, Ohio John said:

    Good Luck on the PE exam. It’s a rough one. Got mine back in 2005. Worth the effort. When I put my generator in I installed a switch box that allows me to feed individual circuits in the house and totaly isolates them from the incoming power or lack of. It seem you can never be as prepared as you want to be but I know I’m way beyond the curve compared to everyone else.

  32. On September 22, 2017 at 12:44 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    @Ohio John,

    PE Exam: Done in 1990. Way, way, way in my rear view mirror by now. When the questions were essay rather than multiple guess.

  33. On September 23, 2017 at 4:19 pm, Pat Hines said:

    At the risk of running this into the ground, let me recommend this addition to all substantial generators. It’s a canopy that keeps the worst of weather, including snow, off your outside generator. That prevents any temptation to use the generator too close to your home. They make several sizes.

    I have one, it works as claimed. It was “snow tested” last winter.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Survival and was published September 20th, 2017 by Herschel Smith.

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