A couple of years ago I purchased a small Worthington Industries propane tank, which has turned into a great purchase.

Initially I purchased it for camping trips.  Since I camp several times a year, I thought it would be a good idea to have a pony cylinder rather than the small, disposable ones most people use.  One of these tanks will usually last me a season’s worth of camping and ensures that I never run out of fuel.

The bonus is, having an extra propane cylinder really comes in handy around the house too!

Case in point, my sister’s BBQ grill.  A few months back, she ran out of fuel while cooking some ribs for a family meal we were having over at her place.  She called me in a panic and I said that I would bring my tank over right away.  In a few minutes, she was back to grilling and the dinner was only delayed slightly.  There have also been a few times when I started running low on fuel on my grill and swapped out the large tank with the small one.

Preparation is not just for disasters and calamities, being ready can get you out of a tight spot in normal situations too.  Having the right tools or extra supplies on-hand makes life easier and minimizes the impact of interruptions.  So if you already have a propane cylinder around the house, consider purchasing another, smaller one to have as a back up.  It will come in handy more often than you think.

Bonus:  Here is a good article on when you should replace your propane tank.

Click here to purchase a Worthington 1-Gallon Steel Propane Cylinder

Last weekend my girlfriend and I were in Las Vegas.  As we were leaving I re-learned an important lesson that I want to share that can be applied in many other areas.

Vegas is an odd combination of wealth and want, prosperity and poverty…up and down Las Vegas Boulevard (aka “The Strip).  On our way out, we stopped by a gas station just north of Freemont Street to fuel up for the trip home.  Looking back, it wasn’t the best idea.  Even during the day, there are scary parts of Las Vegas that you will want to avoid.  Even though we still had a half tank of gas we decided to stop in town instead of heading out and fueling up somewhere along the highway.

Nothing happened but it was uncomfortable for my girlfriend.  There were a few homeless people bothering station patrons and a couple suspicious-looking people waiting in their cars.  Its not the place you want to be if you can avoid it, as I filled-up I kept a close eye on everything and was keenly aware of what was happening.  Both of us were glad to get on the road and leave that station behind us.

The lesson, don’t put yourself in a situation where you could be at risk.  The area just north of Las Vegas Boulevard and Freemont Street isn’t particularly clean or safe, it should be avoided.  Should you find yourself in a similar situation and have enough fuel to travel a bit further, do so.  Avoid sketchy areas particularly if you are from out of town and don’t know the area well.  Doing so will prevent a lot of potential problems and keep your mind at ease.

So when you find yourself on a dirty boulevard, heed Lou Reed’s advice and fly, fly, fly away…

If you ever wonder why many cities and municipalities are broke, think about Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Where did all the money go?
Credit: Pocho

If leaders can’t control their spending habits in their personal lives, how can anybody expect them to be good public servants?  One prime example of this is the outgoing Mayor of Los Angeles.  Apparently Antonio Villaraigosa spent money as fast as it came in and is now actively looking for a job once his term ends.  He is well-connected and will land a good job somewhere, but the city and people he leaves behind won’t be so fortunate.

Earlier in his second term, Comptroller Wendy Gruel issued a report stating that the city faced an “urgent financial crisis” and would be unable to pay its bills in a matter of weeks.  Even though the immediate crisis was averted, the underlying conditions remain.  The combination of high debt, lavish benefits, comfortable retirements, and fiscal irresponsibility still exist in Los Angeles, a condition that is likely to continue until the city can’t borrow any more.

Think about this for a moment, do you trust governments that can’t control their own spending and are led by irresponsible people?  As Tim Carney wrote the other day, the game is rigged against regular people.  Mayor Villaraigosa and others can leave behind a wreck for others to clean up and face no adverse consequences for their actions.  They don’t care if city services degrade and the livability of their cities suffers, its on to the next well-paying job and greater prestige.

So what does a regular person do?

Well, it start by realizing that government won’t always be there for you when things go wrong.  You won’t be able to count on bankrupt cities to come to your aid, the alternative is to rely upon yourself, your neighborhood, and your communities to address urgent needs.  Preparation is a process, and it starts with the realization that you have to take responsibility for yourself.  This does not mean individuals become selfish or isolated, quite the contrary in fact.  A prepared individual becomes an asset to the community he or she lives in.  As more citizens become involved in becoming prepared, the communities they reside in become more resilient and connected.

This can start with minor steps like having a 3-day supply of food and water allocated for emergency use.  It can also include wearing ID bands with important medical information etched on them.  Another steps is having extra flashlights, radios, and batteries handy for when the power goes out.  The key is to being taking small steps towards becoming better prepared.  Realize that this is an ongoing journey that will yield rewards even if disaster never strikes.  Governments won’t be there to save you, its time to take ownership of your safety and security.

If the research is true, over 90% of you own a cell phone and over 60% of you own a smart phone.

However, like all electronic devices they won’t work without…electrons.  All cell phones have batteries of one kind or another.  Over the last ten years great strides have been made in both extending battery life and packaging cells, leading to smaller yet more powerful phones.  Having a working battery to store all those electrons is essential, having a spare cell phone battery is evidence of being well-prepared.

Let’s face it, despite all the advances in battery technology they will eventually start to wear-out and eventually fail.  Having only one battery on-hand means you may be incommunicado until you get a working battery installed.  If you don’t live in a major city or have an older phone, this could become a problem that lasts a few days instead of just a few hours.

The solution is to have a spare cell phone battery (or two) ready to swap-out when the need arises.  I purchased an extra one today for my NSA intelligence gathering and location tracking device smart phone for about $40, which is a cheap insurance policy for staying in touch.  Its a good purchase to make since cell phones/smart phones are great tools to have in an emergency.  My recommendation is that if you have a couple extra twenties in your pocket, get spare cell phone battery today.

Live in a nice neighborhood?

Is your house in a safe part of town?

Have a lot of wealthy and famous neighbors?

Think you are immune from crime?

Well, if you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you may wish to reassess your assumptions.  After all, the escapades of the “Rock Burglar” should clearly demonstrate that nobody’s house if safe from a determined thief.  Even though he has been convicted and will spend the rest of his life in jail, Robert Neese did have a long run as a thief with some notable victims.

alleged victims include former vice president Dan Quayle and ex-pro baseball players Mark Grace and Steve Finley, is believed to be responsible for about 400 burglaries of luxury homes in the Phoenix area

The takeaway from this is nobody is immune from crime, so plan accordingly.  Assume you are a target no matter where you live or what your financial situation is.  Criminals steal for a living and they will seek out victims, especially ones who are unprepared.

I’m not just talking about urban blight like this:

Credit: Mojo Steve

I’ve written about how prevailing economic conditions affect government services in places like Detroit.  I have also mentioned how some communities are turning to private and citizen policing to augment their sworn law enforcement members.  One place this is taking place is…Detroit.

In one respect, this is a hopeful sign as citizens take (back) control of their neighborhoods when failed, corrupt governments fall short.  However, it also shows the extent of the problem in many of America’s large cities face.  Declining populations, ruinously lavish government pensions, corrupt political leaders, excessive regulation, and high taxation combine to form a perfect storm of fiscal destruction.  The citizens are the ones left to largely fend for themselves as governments lack the resources to provide essential services.

With this in mind, what are you doing to prepare?  As we see in places like Detroit, governments won’t always be there when you need them.  Time to assert your own independence and take steps to prepare for when things go wrong.