The power goes out for several hours.  After a while, it comes back on and you are hungry.  You open your refrigerator and wonder…is the food safe to eat?

That’s a legitimate question because you wouldn’t want to get a case of food poisoning.

One good resource is FoodSafety.gov, which is run by the Department of Health and Human Services.  If you go to this page and this page, you can get information on what to save and what to throw out after a power outage.  The key takeaway:

Is food in the refrigerator safe during a power outage? It should be safe as long as power is out no more than 4 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for over 2 hours.

There is a lot more information on food safety on this site so spend some time getting familiar with it.  Knowledge of food safety in emergency situations could come in handy the next time a disaster strikes.

One of the documents I have spent some time reading recently is US Army Survival Guide FM 21-76.  It covers a wide range of topics related to various survival situations soldiers may encounter in the field.  A lot of this information is applicable to civilian life too, which is why it warrants our attention.  In fact, the very first chapter spells it all out for us in an easy to remember way.

The letters S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L spell it out what you should do in a survival situation.  Chapter 1 expands on the meaning of each letter but here are the top-level headings for each letter:

S-Size Up the Situation

U-Use All Your Senses, Undue Haste Makes Waste

R-Remember Where You Are

V-Vanquish Fear and Panic

I-Improvise

V-Value Living

A-Act Like the Natives

L-Live by Your Wits, But for Now, Learn Basic Skills

While the audience for this document is soldiers, ordinary civilians can still apply the principles contained within this guide to their emergency preparations.  It’s a great foundation with a lot of practical information you can use now.  Over time I will go into more detail about some of the important sections of the guide so we can learn how to effectively use the information contained in it.

By the way, you can download the full US Army Survival Guide on your smartphone.  Just do a keyword search on the title or number (FM 21-76) and you will find it.  If you want a PDF of the document, you can find a copy here to view or download.  You can always search your local Army Surplus Store, bookstore, or Amazon for the hardcopy of this document.  I’ll cover some of the topics in this guide in future posts but feel free to read this guide on your own if you have the time.

What sort of gun should you own?  That’s a simple question with a lot of different answers.  I asked myself this question a few years back as I got ready to purchase my first firearm.  Pistol, rifle, shotgun…which is the best starting point?

You could do a lot worse than this:

This is a Mossberg 500 Tactical, which is a short-barrel 12-gauge pump-action shotgun.  You can find more details by going to the manufacturer’s site or looking up the specs online.  I chose it because its a great tool for home defense, ammunition is readily available, and pump-action shotguns are VERY reliable.  Plus, the adjustable stock and side saddle are great features to have.  It cost me around $400 back in early 2011 and has been a great first firearm.

So why a pump-action shotgun?  Well, its a versatile tool that can be used for home defense, target shooting, or hunting.  Mossberg barrels and accessories for the 500-series are interchangeable and fairly common, so changing a barrel or stock is relatively straightforward and inexpensive.  I can put virtually any 12-gauge round through it too, which isn’t always the case with gas-operated shotguns like the Mossberg 950.

I won’t get into the debate over which is best for home defense, that is another subject for another post.  For me, I have my Mossberg 500 Tactical loaded with 5 rounds of #4 birdshot in a Cruiser Ready configuration (loaded, chamber empty, safety on).  I store it upright on a Gun Grabber Home Defense Quick Release vertical gun rack in my safe room so its ready to go if I ever need it.  I keep five slugs in the side saddle and a box of #4 birdshot within arm’s reach in case I have to reload.

Are there better configurations out there?  I’m sure there are, however for around $500 you can start with the configuration (shotgun, ammunition, and Gun Grabber) I just described.  Remember that preparation is a process and getting your first firearm is just one step in a long journey towards building a useful set of weapons and skills that will be ready when you need them.  I’ll cover firearms safety, education, and best practices in upcoming posts.  For now though, use the information in this post to make an informed decision on purchasing your first firearm.

UPDATE:  Thanks for making this the most popular post on the blog!

What happens when TSHTF?

You can read what one Argentinian experienced in his country’s recent past by going here.  The information in his post is useful because he lived in South American during a time of economic and social upheaval that changed people’s lives significantly.  He writes as an educated, middle-class person living (and surviving) in an urban environment during troubled times.  Give yourself some time and read what “FerFAL” has to say, it may help you someday.

*Acronym for when “The S*** Hits The Fan”

Its a good idea to have some extra fuel on-hand for when the need arises.  Automobiles, chainsaws, generators, motorcycles, ATV/UTVs, tractors, and anything else with an internal combustion engine needs fuel.  If there is an emergency, chances are your local gas station will;  be out of fuel, be unable to pump fuel, or have very long lines of people waiting to get fuel.  So its better to get some extra fuel BEFORE you need it.

But how do you safely store and dispense fuel at your home?  Two words dear reader “Jerry Cans.”

These 20-liter German-designed containers have become the de facto standard for militaries and off-road enthusiasts for decades.  They are easy to handle, can quickly dispense their contents, and are VERY rugged.  If you have a moment, read up on the history of this utilitarian marvel.

So what kind of Jerry Cans should you buy?  Well, one of my college roommates has done all the research and written a very thorough article on the subject.  You can click here to find the post, it will well worth your time and will help you make the right purchasing decision.  After you have read the article, purchase some Jerry Cans and fill them up with the fuel you will need in an emergency.

Order new, steel NATO 20L Jerry Cans (Made in Europe!) by clicking here

If I were to guess, most of you reading this article save money through IRA or 401(k) plans.  In most states, you have to carry insurance in order to drive an automobile legally.  The majority of you also have some form of health insurance or medical savings account to cover medical expenses too.  These are just a few methods of financially protecting yourself from uncertainty.  Stocking up on everyday items as a part of your preparation supplies is necessary too.

Let’s say you were out of work for a prolonged period of time, would you have enough supplies to last until you got another job?  How about if there was a major disaster that disrupted supplies from getting to your neighborhood?  What if the cost of many items suddenly shot up because of a unforeseen event that constrained supply or drove excessive demand?  The concept to keep in mind here is the notion of stockpiling a certain quantity of supplies to see you through disruptions.

Stockpiling should start with examining what items you currently use on a daily basis.  This includes food, medicine, household supplies, and other consumable items you already have on-hand.  Then determine how long you want to be able to sustain an interruption of that item, for example 30 days.  Now ask yourself how much of a given item (ex. toothpaste) do you use during that timeframe?  If you have enough to get you through the next 30 days, congratulations!  If not, purchase what you need to ensure you have an adequate supply on-hand.

Need some examples?  Here are some things I keep at least a 6-month supply on-hand:

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Razor blades
  • Shaving oil
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body lotion
  • Deodorant
  • Ibuprofen
  • Bleach
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dish soap
  • Dishwasher soap
  • Clorox cleaning wipes
  • Much more…

Keep this in mind, I am single and live alone.  If you have children, a spouse, or relatives living with you, take those other people into account when determining your stock levels.  Also, if things are bad for a long time many of these items can be used to barter with.  We’ll cover that subject in another post but keep that in the back of your mind.

I recommend stocking up on supplies when there is a sale on them.  You can stock up for less when you do this and be able to use your savings to purchase other items.  Also, warehouse stores like Costco regularly run sales on bulk packages of certain items (ex. soap, toothpaste, peanut butter) that are great to have additional amounts on-hand.  The key is to stock up before there is panic buying going on, you want to make sure you have what you need before you need to have it.

So take a look around and start to think about what you will need if things get rough for a while.  You can start with 30 days and move on from there, the key is to start NOW so you have a foundation to build on over time.  If you shop wisely, you can become more insulated from supply and price fluxuations when they come.  This will happen from time to time, but unlike many others, you will be prepared for it.

Preparation is an ongoing process, not a one-time activity that is considered “done” after a series of tasks are performed.  You will need to check, re-check, and make changes from time to time to ensure you are ready for the unexpected.  Consider these checks to be ongoing maintenance, akin to keeping your automobile in good working order.

Case in point, batteries*.  There are rechargeable and non-rechargeable versions made of various combinations of materials.  All of them have the same function though which is storing electrical energy.  This post will focus on the non-rechargeable ones.

Over time, batteries will lose energy even if the device they are in isn’t being used.  The rate of loss will depend upon factors like the type of device the battery is installed in, ambient temperature, the quality of the battery, and others.  Over time, the materials in the battery can start to break down and leak.  This can cause a mess along with equipment loss, so you want to take steps to avoid this.

I speak from personal experience on this issue because I failed to do this in some of my battery-powered flashlights.  I was able to salvage one of my collapsible Coleman LED lamps, but lost both a single-cell AAA Maglite and a double-cell AA Maglite.  The cells were so swollen in the AA Maglite that I couldn’t extract them and had to throw out the flashlight body!  Now, I regularly check all my battery-powered devices at least twice a year (quarterly is better) to ensure all of the cells are in good shape.  Costco has regular sales on batteries so I have an adequate supply of spare ones on-hand for replacement.

So learn from my mistake and check your batteries on a regular basis.  Normal batteries are relatively inexpensive and widely available so its mostly a matter of making these checks a habit that will ensure your equipment remains operational.  In the future I will discuss where and when to use rechargeable batteries and normal batteries, for now though take some time to ensure that the batteries you will need in an emergency are in good shape.

*Technically most of the ones used are dry cells because the material inside the case is a paste.

Click here to order quality rechargeable batteries from Amazon

There are a couple of critical principles in preparation that everyone needs to practice.  The first one I will write about is “two is one and one is none.”  What it means is always have more than one item whenever possible to achieve a level of redundancy.  After all, if you only have one item and its broken/unavailable in an emergency, you will have to do without.

Simple concept, but what does this mean in practice?

There are two ways I address redundancy in my preparation.  The first is having at least two of a given item.  For example:

  • Two flashlights
  • Two pair of gloves
  • Two multi-tools
  • Two lengths of paracord
  • Two fire extinguishers

The other way to have redundancy is addressing a function using two different methodologies.  That means having at least two different items that accomplish the same task.  For example:

  • Lighting – flashlight, candle, chemlight
  • Fire starting – lighter, matches, flint and steel
  • Weapons – shotgun, club, pepper spray
  • Food – Freeze-dried food, food bars, MREs
  • Water – Bottled water, water filter, water purification tablets

What form “two is one and one is none” takes will vary depending upon what you are preparing for, budget, space available, and other factors.  Remember that this is a principle and not a prescription, you will have to use discernment to determine what form redundancy takes as you make preparations.  The key is not to rely on one item that could let you down when you need it the most.  Large companies, governmental agencies, and military units all practice redundancy as a safeguard against failures.  If you do the same, you will be ahead of the game and be better able to handle contingencies.

Having a single point of failure makes your planning fragile, having redundancy makes it more robust.  So as you prepare, continue to keep the ‘two is one and one is none” thought in mind.  You will be glad you did if you ever have to take action, and have increased peace of mind in the interim.

Several years ago I decided to purchase some indoor emergency lights for my house.  I wanted to have lights in strategic places in case the power went out so I could find my way around my house.  Ask anyone who has been in a blackout, even a little bit of light helps.

I purchased a pair of Durofix RL435 Li-Ion LED Lights at Costco and decided to try them out.  I really liked them, they were bright, simple to install, and had a good design.  In fact, I purchased three pair of them over the next two months and placed them throughout my house.  Eventually, the power went out and the lights came on, they worked as designed.

However, over time a couple of my Durofix RL435 Li-Ion LED Lights stopped charging and eventually stopped working.  I did some basic fault isolation to see if the issue was the electrical outlet or the light.  The problem was definitely in the LED lights and I decided to crack open the case to see if I could swap the battery for a new one.

The inside is as plain as the outside is stylish.  All the pieces are there but none of them are replaceable, including the battery.  The leads to the battery are soldered on to the unit, which wrapped in a brown paper wrapper with only Chinese markings on it.  So if something fails in this unit, it becomes a paperweight.

Overall, the Durofix RL435 Li-Ion LED Light is not a bad product but its also not a great one either.  A 33% failure rate after about a year is not acceptable even for low-end residential products.  The four ones that still work are doing fine and I haven’t had any problems with them, so maybe there was bad quality control at the factory for the two inoperable units.  Regardless, my recommendation is that you opt for a different brand when looking for emergency lighting for your house.

Overall Rating:  3/10

For better LED Emergency Lights, click here to buy the Eton Blackout Buddy – Flashlight & Nightlight – 3 PACK

Hello and thanks for visiting! My name is Doug and I am the primary writer over here at Smart Suburban Survival (SSS). Like many of you, I live in a single-family home in a suburban community of a large metropolitan area. However, over the past few years I have become more aware of various emergencies that have the potential to significantly disrupt my life. Like many of you, I was not prepared to deal with common situations that required advanced preparation. I took it upon myself to learn and continue learning about how I can become more prepared to handle emergencies. My goal is to share that knowledge so you and your family can become more prepared.

This website will continue to evolve over time, both as my own understanding improves and as times change. Preparation is not a one-time event, it is an ongoing process to get ready for different situations. Sometimes these are known (ex. tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes) whereas other times they are emergent (ex. terrorism, civil unrest, biological/chemical weapons). Regardless of the nature of the disruption, it is best to keep learning and preparing so you can be ready if these things happen.

SSS is not intended to scare you or make you paranoid, in fact the goal is quite the opposite. Knowledge is power and preparation breeds confidence, which is what we are aiming for. You will find that as you take action to prepare for emergencies, your mind will become calm as you arm yourself with the knowledge, tools, and habits that we discuss here. Too often, when disaster strikes people panic because they are both scared and unprepared. This results in unnecessary stress, injury, and destruction that could have been mitigated by being more prepared. My desire is to help all those who want to prepare themselves so that our families and communities can become more resilient in the face of adversity.

I invite you to regularly visit SSS so you can continue learning and preparing. All of us can gain more knowledge over time and the intent is to make this journey both fun and informative. This is going to be an adventure for all of us, welcome to Smart Suburban Survival!