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Preps and Prepper skills put to the test

By Greg | 62Citizen



While some prep for fantastic, Hollywood-level catastrophes, most see preparedness as a way to plan and stock up for more realistic and more often occurring incidents like job loss, a natural disaster, or localized outages. Some of us even inspire ourselves and our families to become more self-reliant, less dependent on “the system,” taking control of our food and utility supply chain. Some recent sources dub us “the neo-pioneers,” returning to old ways as a cleaner, more wholesome way of living.

 

My preparedness journey started when I was young, with a childhood in WNY, where blizzards and ice storms can be commonplace. My Dad was pretty resourceful, an electrician by trade but overall handyman and fixer of most things broken. My mother gardened and canned and even sewed clothing at one point, having learned those skills from her parents, who had come through the Great Depression. My prep skills remained in their infancy for decades until I moved to Central Florida, where hurricanes, riots, and what I began to feel was a general decline in society caused me to renew my interest in preparedness.  As a father, I had a family to look out for, and with that greater responsibility came a greater yearning to learn how to become a more prepared citizen.

 

Fast forward to Election Day 2020, I was less than three years from retiring as a Secret Service agent. The “summer of love,” where many major cities burned nightly, and Covid lockdowns soured my taste for the convenience of urban/suburban lifestyle. I had been training at Campcraft for several years and knew God had a plan for me, and it wasn’t working in the polluted urban swamp of DC.

 

After an exhaustive search, I finally closed on a piece of property in Central KY. Although somewhat of a hoarder house, it had good bones and the beginnings of a prepper’s paradise. After two large bonfires and a combined 50 yards of dumpster space, I was ready to build out my castle.

 

Scenic, as well as strategic views of the surrounding area that stretched for miles, abundant and helpful flora and fauna, among other resources, made it ideal for settling down and waiting out whatever the world threw at me. With the help of friends, we installed a 1,800-gallon rain catchment system that is my primary water supply. The property has a municipal water fixture, but I use that as a backup only.  Plans for solar panels are in the works, but generators are routinely tested as backups to municipal power.

 

There are ample food stores, which are well stocked with a combination of freeze-dried meal buckets, traditional and home-made canned goods, and fresh or frozen foods. Garden and small livestock plans were being made, just waiting for warmer weather.

 

As a former law enforcement officer, means of physical protection are well managed, and robust medical supplies are on hand.

 

Communications in the form of cell phones, FRS, and HAM radios are routinely checked, although the range is limited due to my remote location.

 

A few months ago, I reworked my vehicle kit and began carrying additional gear on trips longer than about two hours from my home. These items include a patrol rifle, additional ammo, additional medical supplies, a complete change of clothes, and a three-day food cache.

 

All was proceeding well, and I thought I was the fat cat, brighter than the average bear. Mother Nature decided she had other plans.

 

A few weeks ago, I attended and maybe met some of you at the Bushcraft and Preparedness Expo in Hindman, KY. Just as we were setting up, Jason Hunt informed me that local news back in Central KY was reporting a tornado a few miles away from my house. I couldn’t do anything about it at the time and decided to stay put. A local thunderstorm and high winds in Hindman kept us awake most of the night, and poor cell reception didn’t help in my attempt to get any info on what was happening back home. As the Expo progressed, I found out the roads to the towns around my house were all closed, and a live news video confirmed the worst.  The tornado had passed right through “my holler.” I decided to leave the expo early and headed out with more than a bit of anxiety about what lay ahead. My cell phone was low on power, and I then realized I had left my bag of charging bricks in another pack, and they weren’t available. I tried to use the plug-in adapter, and as Murphy would have it, the outlet shorted, leaving me no way to charge my phone. And no GPS to guide me home. I have some great waterproof maps for this type of thing, but they were all at home. As I was repacking my vehicle kit, they had been left behind.

 

Luckily, I had a decent understanding of the area and was able to wander off into the fading daylight until I reached familiar territory. As I reached the remaining few miles before my home, I became aware of the incredible devastation a tornado can inflict. I’ve been through several major hurricanes, but this was different. The narrow, random focus of the destruction was alarming.

 

Once I got to my property, I noticed an IBC tote lodged in the middle of a growth of trees. It was my tote, but it had blown several hundred yards off a hill and into the trees. Access to my barn was blocked by a large hardwood tree, totally blocking that portion of the driveway. The main drive was littered with four downed trees and was impassable.

 

Hiking up to the house, I found piles of trees down everywhere. Most of my siding and half my roof panels were pulled loose or off. Pieces of gravel were embedded into the wooden deck boards, but thankfully, all windows, doors, etc., were intact, and there didn’t appear to be any interior water damage. However, the sheetrock of several walls had been pulled free from the studs as the pressure and suction of the storm attempted to pull the house apart from the inside out. The chimney pipe to the wood stove was crooked and bent.

 

Cinderblocks holding the cistern covers in place were blown away, and dirt and debris were inside the holding tank. The force of the storm had also popped loose several PVC pipes for the cistern, sewage drain, and water intake to the house.

 

It appeared power had been lost but was back on. Later, I found out from the power company that my house only lost power for less than an hour, while the entire rest of the neighborhood went nearly two days in the dark.

 

By now, it was dark, and I called it a night. The following day, priorities were in order, so I cleared the driveway. My chainsaw was trapped inside the barn, and luckily, I had a cordless sawzall with a long debris blade left in the house from a demo project I had been working on. Using that and the axe from my vehicle kit, I was able to clear the driveway well enough to get my vehicle up to the house. By then, the battery in the saw was dead, and my axe helped clear a few tree limbs that were in the way, but I did not dent in the amount of debris down.

 

The next day, Rob Onken, on his way home from the expo, stopped by and did short work on the tree blocking the barn using his chainsaws. Side note: Rob is a master tinkerer and chainsaw wizard. He has a whole class on chainsaw upkeep on outdoorcore.com. It’s well worth taking. I could crawl under the house, reconnect all the damaged PVC lines, and begin filtering out the debris-filled cistern tank. The road to Lowes was blocked, but all repairs were completed because I had stockpiled spare fittings, piping, and tools in case of a “supply chain disruption.” In the meantime, I had stored eight 5-gallon jugs of water in the house and had a case of water in my car from the expo for drinking and other needs. By day 4, a true blessing fell upon me when a work crew showed up and cleared over 25 downed trees. Cutting hardwood into firewood and cedar into logs and bough burn piles. I could get up on the roof, secure loose panels, and keep additional damage to a minimum.

 

Luckily, insurance settled relatively quickly (3 weeks), and repair work begins in the next few days.

 

So, what are my lessons learned?

 

SHELTER: If my house had not been liveable, I was fortunate to have been coming back from the expo, so I had a full tent, sleeping bag, and multiple changes of clothes, etc. Had that trip not occurred, my upgraded vehicle kit would’ve given me a second change of clothes, and that’s it. I keep an emergency tarp and cordage in my vehicle kit, so I could’ve made a primitive shelter if needed. I’ve since created a tote with a tent, sleep system, clothing, and hygiene items and stored it in the barn. This gives me an option if my home has been damaged and the contents lost.

 

Thankfully, I was not in my home when this event occurred, I’m sure it would’ve been crazy to witness. Furniture was pushed all around, and again, interior walls were pulled loose. Plans for a storm shelter are in the works.

 

FOOD/WATER: Coming back from the expo, I had spare food in a cooler and the 72-hour rations in my vehicle kit. If I had to go longer without support, I did have additional food and water stored in the barn. The cistern had been great until debris made the water unusable and could have damaged the pump. Storing additional water in the house and barn was a lifesaver.  I had enough for several extra days to order a whole new pump, etc. Plans are to order a pump and have it on hand as a backup. I am also looking into a small solar power system if my power has been down like the rest of the area. I have additional water purification methods in my car kit and stashed in the house and barn.

 

SECURITY: When I initially hiked up to the house, I only had my EDC handgun with me. Had I encountered looters, squatters, or anyone with mischief and mayhem on their minds, it really would’ve been good to have grabbed my rifle and carried that and its related attachments to do an initial sweep of the house and yard. Getting to the house just as it was getting dark with only a pistol and a handheld flashlight when a rifle and night vision were readily available in my car wasn’t the most brilliant move.

 

My gate has always been a bit rickety. Plans to harden it are in the works, and materials have been secured. Even though the doors and windows are held, I’m looking at ways to reinforce them with hurricane tint and a product someone showed me called Door Armor, which reinforces the door frame, jams, and hinge points.

 

OTHER: Comms definitely suffered since my cell phone could not be charged. Leaving my maps, phone chargers, and other items at home was a rookie mistake. Check and double-check your mission-essential gear before any road trip. Even an ordinary grocery run can get sidetracked and derailed if you leave something critical out of the equation.

 

I would have liked to have had a weather radio/scanner in the vehicle to be informed about road closures. Luckily, they did not affect my primary route, but two of my alternate routes to the house were blocked.

 

Make sure, if you have insurance, it’s up to date, you are aware of what the policy covers, and you have a general inventory of the contents of your home. Take a video once or twice a year. Items like guns, computers, etc, have serial numbers documented and stored in a place other than inside the house. Insurance would’ve questioned the contents without supporting documentation if my house had been destroyed. 

 

COMMUNITY:

This is by far the most impactful lesson I learned from this incident. There is NO WAY I could have faced this scenario as a lone wolf and been back online as quickly as I was. The sheer volume of debris would’ve taken me months to clear as effectively as was done by the crew that showed up.  They had been sent by a friend who knew some people and knew I needed a hand. Friends from the expo who called with prayers and well wishes and those like Rob who showed up and put work in were also instrumental in my overall well-being.

 

For the last few months, I have volunteered at a community center distributing food to underserved residents of my county. Once the staff heard what happened, I was bombarded with recommendations for contractors and offers for a bed, a meal, or a hot shower. Whatever people had, they were willing to offer.

 

Driving around town, seeing the damage over the next few weeks, I saw people helping each other gladly.

 

Those relationships we develop in good times will be critical in hard times, and thinking you can hold your own as a one-man band won’t cut it long term. I don’t think we can go through life as a shadow; you need to be a light that people see and react positively to. Small acts of kindness, a friendly positive attitude, and compassion for fellow humans cost us little. Yet, if applied sincerely, we can reap the benefits of having people around us who are willing to pitch in and help when the chips are down.

 

CONCLUSION:

Overall, I think my preps and plans held up well. There’s room for improvement after getting feedback from friends and doing some self-reflection. But I’m grateful this was only a test. Giving me a bloody nose so I can train and prep for the day it’s a full-on fight. Even if you’re not in the path of any of the recent disasters, use them to reevaluate your plans and preps.  These aren’t things you polish up, put on the shelf, and leave static. Your supplies and plans should constantly morph as your situational awareness, skills, and mindset change.

 

As I sit on my deck writing this and awaiting the TEOWAWKI eclipse, I’m hearing turkeys on the next ridge.  Two different species of songbirds are busy building nests in cedar trees that were partially torn apart.  The red buds and other flowering trees bloom, and I’m reminded of Isiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  God gave me a passing grade and told me all this is in preparation for the outcome.

 

Be safe. Stay prepared. More soon

 

Greg “62nd Citizen”

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