Saturday, November 1, 2014

Daily Briefing for Saturday, November 1, 2014

Fall Back

DST ends Sunday morning at 2 AM.  This means we will "fall back" and gain an hour.

Fire preventionists suggest we change the batteries in our smoke alarms when changing to or from DST to ensure they are fresh....or do they?  FEMA recommends once a year, while the National Fire Protection Association has no recommendation on its website

I gleaned other guidance in my research.  One fire chief indicated that those smoke detectors with lithium batteries only needed to be tested while those 9 volt batteries needed to be replaced.

I'll be testing mine tomorrow at a minimum. 

Today At The Local Food Bank

Kendel and I did a shift at the local food bank, helping process donated food to be routed to families in need.  The folks at the Capital Area Food Bank do a fantastic job taking a bunch of volunteers who have never worked a shift before and turning them into a productive work force in a matter of minutes.

The preparedness community can learn a lot from working at a food bank.  For example:

  • If you ever wanted to know what kinds of dented cans are and are not acceptable for consumption, you will learn that in your shift.  Food bank staffs see it all - dents, scratches, torn boxes - you name it.  Given the tremendous data set they have to work with (our half day shift alone processed 6,600 pounds of food; over a week's worth of shifts, that comes out to over 79,000 pounds of food a week), they have learned what container damage is cosmetic and what is disqualifying. 

    Further, the food bank regularly donates food that has passed its "best by" date.  The general rules are that canned foods within three years of today's date are acceptable, except for tomato based products, for which one year of today's date is acceptable for usage.  The only food they require to be within the best by date is baby formula.
  • You learn about the circumstances of those in need.  Often when we try to decide on what's the right public policy position on remedies for poverty, we are content to simply look at lots of data.  Don't get me wrong - the data is crucial for good policy planning.  For example, most people are unaware that the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program - SNAP - is the successor to the food stamp program.  Even if we take Mother Jones at her word (which is hard for me to do, given their track record on a number of issues), SNAP consumes about five percent of the federal budget - not as much as many people probably believe.

    Understanding the circumstances the recipients find themselves in not only improves our humanity, it better enables us to understand the nature of the problems our country is facing.  That's not to say we'll all rush out and demand our politicians double the SNAP budget or increase other welfare program budgets, but it is to say we'll have a much better understanding of the issues so we can make informed decisions and comments about the subject.
  • You learn more about the food bank's efforts before and during disasters.  Our food bank played a critical role in feeding Katrina refugees as well as those displaced by the wildfires of 2011.  Those of us in the preparedness community need to understand what happens to those who do not have plans or resources after a disaster, regardless of whether you feel charitable towards them or not.  It's good intel to know where the local food distribution points are. 

    One thing I want to explore more at our food bank is its efforts in the area of disaster preparedness for low income individuals.  Their website makes mention of its efforts in this field, but there's not much there in the way of details.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

2015 Suburban Dad Survivalist Preparedness Conference

2015 Suburban Dad Survivalist Preparedness Conference
Saturday, January 10
10:00 AM – 5:15 PM
Cabela’s, 15570 S Interstate 35 Frontage Rd, Buda, TX 78610

The Third Annual SDS Preparedness Conference will be the most advanced and in-depth conference yet.  Based on attendee feedback from last year’s conference, the 2015 event will offer:

  • more advanced topics, with
  • more time being devoted to each topic. 


Admission fee is $45.  To register, click on the KR Training registration page.  Once you’ve completed the registration form, you must then click on the “Pay for Classes” link.  Until you have paid for the event, you do not have a reservation.


Despite our best efforts at past events to encourage the Cabela’s dining facility to anticipate the surge of attendees during the lunch break, they cannot meet the demand in a timely fashion.  We highly recommend you consider bringing your own lunch this year.  Please note we will not have access to a microwave or other means to warm food. 


Take Exit 220 on Interstate 35.  Cabela’s is located on the west side of the interstate. The conference room is located on the second level in the rear of the building. 

We will have tables at this year’s conference, so please feel free to bring notepads and electronic devices.  There are a limited number of electrical outlets for recharging.  Cabela’s does not offer wifi. 

Area Hotels

For those coming in from out of town, there are two hotels within a very short distance of Cabela’s:

Friday Night Dinner

There will be an informal dinner Friday night, January 9, at the Logan’s Roadhouse located in the northeast parking lot of Cabela’s.  We’ll plan to be seated at 6 PM.  Please contact Paul at 512-267-4817 if you would like to join the group.  You will be responsible for your paying for your own meal.


9:30 AM - 10:00 AM          Registration

10:00 AM – 10:05 AM      Welcome and Announcements

10:05 AM – 11:00 AM      Paul Martin on “Building a Culture of Preparedness in America.”  Is the preparedness movement in America succeeding? Paul will take the audience through the current state of preparedness in the United States and offer a blue print on how to go about building a culture of preparedness to save lives and tax dollars.

11:00 AM – 11:45 AM      Lunch (We strongly recommend that you BYO.)

11:45 AM – 12:45 PM      Brian Brown of Team Rubicon on “Cyber Security/Data Management for Preppers.”  With more breaches of servers with sensitive data, how should the preparedness community protect themselves?

12:45 PM – 1:00 PM         Break

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM           John Kochan of KR Training on “Emergency Lighting and Power Options.”  Lighting is critical in grid down operations.  John will provide some in depth guidance on the most effective solutions currently available.

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM           Amit Agrawal of Wells Fargo on the current state of the economy and financial markets.  Amit spoke at the first conference in 2013; he has been invited back due to attendee feedback from last year’s event.

3:00 PM – 3:15 PM           Break

3:15 PM – 4:15 PM           Kellie Bailey on “Constitutional Law and Civil Liberties Issues for the Preparedness Community.”  She is the chair of the Criminal Law section of the Austin Bar Association and will speak on legal issues facing those who are firearm and preparedness advocates.

4:15 PM – 5:15 PM           Paul Martin on “Advanced Food and Water Storage Strategies.”  This is one of the most requested topics at past preparedness seminars and field days.  Paul will give an advanced level presentation on how to build a food and water storage program.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Daily Briefing for Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Report from PrepperFest in Phoenix

I flew out to Phoenix on Sunday for a couple of work meetings on Monday.  I timed my meetings so as to give me an opportunity to attend PrepperFest in Scottsdale.

PrepperFest in Arizona is a two day affair.  I attended not because I needed to buy something  (I ended up doing so anyway...more on that later), but because I'm always interested to see:
  • What the prepper demographic looks like in large numbers
  • What new products, strategies or theories are being advanced into the marketplace
  • What the hot topics are with the conference speakers
  • What speakers I might be able to invite to some of my conferences
I made a few observations I'd like to share:
  1. The prepper demographic has changed dramatically in the last 10 years.  What had been a middle-aged white guy sporting tactical pants and Murica! t-shirts convention has gone completely mainstream.  No exaggeration here - young moms in yoga pants with small children or infants in tow, suburban dads in Dockers and golf shirts, of all ages and races.  This was about as diverse as a trip to Costco in Northwest Austin on a Saturday.  (For those of you not familiar with Northwest Austin, put it this way - there are nearly 30 languages spoken at my stepdaughter's school.)

    This is a very good sign to say the least.  People are paying attention to the news and are making the effort to at least learn more if not get better prepared.

  2. Aquaponics has become well established now in the prepper community.  I wasn't sure how well this strategy was going to be adopted by preppers, but suffice it to say there were multiple vendors there who paid big bucks for prime real estate at the expo.  Don't let my lack of optimism for aquaponics catching lead you to believe I don't think it's a good strategy.  It's just a strategy that requires more effort than simply stocking up on a thousand cans of Mountain House freeze dried.
  3. Preppers need to do a better job supporting these events.  A number of vendors reported that expos like this are tough for them, insofar as they don't manage to sell much merchandise at them.  I've seen it at the seminars and field day I host.  People don't want to pay for training, education or quality supplies.  That's why I'm convinced the only places preparedness stores will survive is in the Utah area, where there is a large base of customers (LDS church members) who make preparedness a priority. 
  4. Speaking of vendors, they are becoming much more diverse as well.  I never thought I'd live to see the day where there were a number of people of color at a preparedness expo, selling preparedness supplies no less.  Vendors from patriot types to granola hippies to soccer moms manned the vendor booths.  I fully expected to see a collection of middle aged, camo wearing white guys selling out of date MREs and chem suits from the Cold War era.  While there was a small amount of that, there were also RV salesmen, farmers selling milk goats and goat cheese, young ladies handing out samples of the newest freeze dried flavors, engineers selling solar generators that they mass produce in their garage and an assortment of other diverse vendors.
So what did I buy?  One tip for those of you planning to attend one of these expos in the future: there are deals to be made at the very end of the expo.  Vendors don't want to ship stuff back and will make some good deals.  I managed to purchase a couple of Survival Stills (one of which is for sale for $250 plus shipping through Friday).  Check out the video in the link.  I'll be testing this still in the coming days....stay tuned for reports.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Daily Briefing for Friday, October 24, 2014

Precautionites or Precautionaries?

I've started listening to Andrew Wilkow's radio show as of late, at the recommendation of Karl at KR Training.  Wilkow intersperses political opinion with regular calls for people to become more prepared in a reasonable fashion. 

In today's show, he suggested a better name for preppers might be "precautionites" or "precautionaries" to more accurately reflect the nature and motivation of those who engage in this endeavor.  One definition I found for the word precaution  - "a measure taken in advance to prevent something dangerous, unpleasant, or inconvenient from happening" - certainly matches the motivation of those who take preparedness seriously.

Precautionaries may be a better descriptor for us.  Preppers are preparing to deal with the aftermath, generally speaking.  If you're a precautionary, on the other hand, you're not just working to deal with the aftermath, you're taking action "to prevent something dangerous, unpleasant or inconvenient from happening."  We should be going beyond focusing efforts solely on survival.  We should be actively working to reduce risk by educating others and taking steps to avoid problems in the first place.

This message is certainly salient today as we see the dreadful news about the school shooting in Marysville, Washington.  There will no doubt be a rush to analyze and lay blame on a host of people and reasons.  Regardless of what we may think was the cause of this, we all should be taking steps to manage the possible risks we face in our schools and work places.  Building relationships with people who may be hurting inside and paying attention to warning signs from those who may take irrational measures should be on our "to do" lists along with learning first aid and having a plan to deal with emergencies. 

As you discuss today's news with your kids and family, discuss your emergency plans for sure, but then also ask them how they might deal with warning signs from fellow students and co-workers.  Often the prevention costs far less - in many ways - than the damages that can follow.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Daily Briefing for Saturday, October 18, 2014

So How About Those Royals?

I find baseball boring.  So let's talk about something else.

First Glimpse Into 2015 SDS Preparedness Conference

The speaker's roster is coming along well.  So far, we have:

  • Brian Brown of Team Rubicon talking about data and network security for preppers.
  • John Kochan of KR Training makes his debut as a speaker on the issue of emergency lighting and power options.
  • Kellie Bailey, the chair of the Austin Bar Association's Criminal Law Section, will speak on "Constitutional and Civil Liberties Issues for the Preparedness Community."  She is a panel attorney for the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.
Be sure to save Saturday, January 10, 2015 on your calendar for this event, to be held at the Cabela's in Buda, Texas. 

Update On Book Writing Project

Last evening, I sent the manuscript - the fourth rough draft of it - to my editor for drill down.  That's freeing up some time for me to start thinking about publishing options.

It's never been easier to publish a book.  Many major publishing houses have created self-publishing subsidiaries to help those of us who don't have a book deal or the financial backing of a big time publisher.  It would be great to have the book picked up by a big publisher, but I am realistic. 

If I were to summarize the manuscript in three paragraphs, it would look something like this:

The preparedness movement in America has failed.  Despite numerous severe storms, earthquakes, pandemic threats, financial crises and civil unrest over the last 25 years, the typical American has not taken the most basic steps to be prepared for an emergency.  And those who do - "preppers" - are often portrayed as mentally unstable. 

America would be better off if it had a culture of preparedness. To create that culture, we can look to other successful cultural change efforts in American history and replicate those learnings in our effort to create a readiness culture.  Preppers themselves need to lead the charge, migrating away from a "I've got mine...too bad you don't have yours" mentality to a leadership role where they set a good example and help others prepare.

If we want more resilient communities less reliant on government or charity after a disaster, we need to make preparedness more of an obligation of good citizenship and less of a symptom of a mental illness.  To do that, we need to be able to "sell" preparedness by finding what themes and values resonate with our neighbors and then using those themes and values to motivate them to take action.

Obligatory Ebola Commentary

Like many of you, I have been following the developing news on Ebola.  Like most people, I'm not a medical expert.  I simply want to know the truth - not hype or downplaying.  Just tell us what's going on and what the plan is. 

I remain firmly convinced the Ebola threat is manageable in the United States....provided we actively manage it.  One-time Obama supporter Peggy Noonan penned this piece outlines why Americans are losing confidence in the government's handling of this crisis.  The New York Times reports this morning "Amid Assurances on Ebola, Obama Is Said to Seethe."  It's in large part because of our reactive rather than proactive approach to this terrible disease.

For now, we need to be executing the basics well.  Washing our hands, avoiding sick people, using Lysol wipes on surfaces in hotel rooms - this will go a long way not only to avoiding Ebola but the far more common contagion that is the flu.

Should you have masks?  Of course...but not just for Ebola.  I keep them handy not just for pandemics, but for other emergencies as well. Think back to 9/11 and all of those people who had on dust masks as they were fleeing the scene.  While dust masks aren't ideal, they are better than nothing.  I keep N100s at home and in my truck in case there's an emergency requiring some sort of respiratory infection. 

Winter Weather Outlook

NOAA has issued its 2014-15 winter weather outlook

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Daily Briefing for Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Sophomore Effort

In the past few months, my blogging has become quite sparse.  Time I would have normally spent in front of a keyboard typing about preparedness has been replaced with time in front of a keyboard typing about preparedness....for my second book.

I'm finishing up the manuscript this weekend, and I hope to have it to the editor in my family soon thereafter for a thorough and skeptical review.  Fortunately for me, my editor is not a prepper, as I didn't want someone who subscribes to my theories doing the initial edit and review.  I intentionally chose someone who I knew wouldn't be bashful about challenging my assertions, lest I suffer from confirmation bias in the manuscript editing process.  If we are to be leaders in our cause, we should actively seek intellectual honesty and skeptical analysis of our positions.

The book is yet to be titled.  I can tell you that it centers around the need to build a culture of preparedness in America, attempting to answer three central questions:

1. Do we need a culture of preparedness in America?
2. If so, what would that culture look like?
3. And how would be go about creating it?

This isn't a how-to book or a "rush out and buy guns and MREs" admonition that permeates the literature in this genre.  I've intentionally avoided much of that in this project, as I really wanted to focus on how we can create a preparedness culture and, hopefully, strengthen our communities as a result.

While the process has been tedious, I can say I've enjoyed it immensely.  For years now, I've had a number of ideas and theories about the preparedness movement which I had never explored in depth.  Collecting a number of essays I've written over the last two years, researching my ideas and converting them into chapters of a book has really enabled me to articulate for the first time in my life what I think the goal for those of us in the movement should be - namely, preparing ourselves but also creating a culture of preparedness to encourage others to do the same.

I look forward to sharing more details with you as the project moves forward.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Daily Briefing for Thursday, October 9, 2014

"Maverick's In A Flat Spin, Headed Out To Sea."

Remember that time that Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards were competing with Val Kilmer and some other actor to see who was the coolest 80s fighter pilot?  In Top Gun, the characters played by Cruise and Edwards find their plane in a flat spin (the preferred recovery technique from which was a subject heavily debated one night when I was a legal intern at NTSB with a bunch of NTSB crash investigators during a rather energetic happy hour.  But I digress.)

I was reminded of that scene last night when I pulled up Drudge to see what crises du jour were on tap.  Apparently, President Obama remarked at a DNC fundraiser Tuesday that "There's a sense possibly that the world is spinning so fast and nobody is able to control it."  Yeah.  Like a flat spin in a F-14 Tomcat.  Except we don't have Tom Cruise and Scientology to pull us out of it. 

The news today isn't simply bleak (although news is, rarely, all positive...lest none of us tune in to watch or read it.)  It reflects a complete disconnect of many assumptions we've made about the order of things for quite some time.  Russian government-connected cyber attacks on JP Morgan.  Ebola here, there, everywhereConfusion as to which bracket we're supposed to be playing in Syria.  Suggestions that ISIS is attempting to penetrate the southern borderOver 300 deaths in Ukraine since last month's cease fire.  Pro-democracy unrest continues in Hong Kong.

It's no wonder, then, that the Maplecroft Civil Unrest Index shows that that risk for "disrupting business has risen in one-fifth of the world over the last quarter, with Hong Kong and Ebola-struck Liberia leading the way."  This raises two important questions.

First, why didn't any of you people tell me that there's such a thing as a "Civil Unrest Index?" 

Second, what on earth are you and I to do in response to these intense and seemingly unconnected stories? 

I'll tell you what we're going to do:

  • Put things in perspective.  We've faced much more turbulent times in this nation and as a species than we are facing now.  Odds are this isn't the end of the world.
  • Be good citizens.  Stay informed.  Stay alert.  Be prepared.  Don't panic. 
  • Encourage others to do the same.  Tell them to make some basic preparations and have a plan to shelter in place...for Ebola, a winter storm, a job loss.  Your calm demeanor and willingness to help will make you an asset to your family and neighborhood.
How do I know this will work?  Because you can, in fact, escape a flat spin:

Whatever ails us right now can be alleviated.  While we encourage our leaders to make the tough but necessary choices to do so, we need to do our part at home.  Executing the basics in preparedness - like executing the basics in piloting - will enable us to get things back on track.