How to Digitally Recover from a Natural Disaster

by Robyn Johnston

Typhoons, blizzards, wildfires, and now, devastating tornadoes have the U.S. focusing on the Midwest. It seems all too often that we hear about a natural disaster occurring one after the other. There are hundreds of resources available for preparing for these types of things: packing lists, emergency evacuation plans, food conservation and more. But today, our dependence on technology and all things digital is almost as vital as food and water (sadly).

So, how do you get yourself back on the grid after a catastrophe? Follow these tips and help yourself digitally recover from any disaster:

Solar Powered Chargers
Without electricity, personal electronics like cell phones have limited air time. Purchase a solar powered cell phone charger just in case. Even if cell towers go down, at least you’ll be charged and ready to go when service is restored.

Online Password Manager
Once you’ve restored an Internet connection, the last thing you want to do is play the password guessing game on all of your important accounts. Sign-up for a password manager subscription so you can access all of your records in a pinch. Store passwords for the accounts you would need in a disaster situation like: home insurance, auto insurance, bank accounts, investments, etc.

Utilize Cloud Storage
A natural disaster could wipe out your home, that means your computer too. Backup pictures, documents and files on a cloud storage service. That way, you can access your information from anywhere even without your hardware.

Satellite Communication
Telephone and Internet are imperative to communicating with friends, family, and emergency services. Internet that runs on an underground network, like cable or fiber-optic, has the potential to be damaged during some disasters like earthquakes or tornadoes. Secure a satellite internet or satellite phone connection and you’ve got a better chance of recovering communication quickly.

Handheld GPS
Debris or danger can block roadways. You may need to find an alternate route on the fly. Invest in a handheld GPS and keep it fully charged in case of an emergency. If you can, save important destinations like hospitals, highways, and fire stations.

It seems like getting wired back in might be the last thing you would worry about in the event of a natural disaster. Safety and health are obviously the most important concerns. But without personal technology – you’ll be more stranded than you might think. Think ahead, prepare your electronics and do some digital legwork beforehand to make for a speedy recovery.

How Technology Can Help in a Disaster
Satellite Internet
Is your most valuable information at risk in an emergency?
Share passwords securely with family in an emergency



Sink Holes and other Dangers to Stored Goods

If you have all your preps in some geological unstable locations, you could lose them to a sink hole.  In just a few states, the house is covered by homeowner’s insurance. That means when the house falls though the hole the insurance company must settle for the house and contents, but not the land.  If the lot was valued at $25,000, your loss.  The loss of the land makes it difficult to get a similarly priced home since you have to come up with the difference.  However, in Florida both the house and the land are covered, allowing you to find a similar home.

But, what about your stored goods?  Your insurance company spells out what is covered, they will pay out the loss, and in some cases might cover a little bit more.  But, all insurance companies draw the line somewhere.

Just like other natural disasters, or in the case of sink holes, some not so natural, you need to know what your policy says and covers.  Two states, require insurance companies to cover sink holes, Tennessee and Florida.  Tennessee does not require coverage of the land.  The rest of the states?  Not so much.

There are other dangers to our stored goods.  Insurance companies offer riders, project, and other policies that can be used to protect insured persons from losses.  They are usually inexpensive and will cover the cost of replacing your goods or projects.  For instance, homeowners policies allow a certain amount for electronics, a rider will increase that amount according to what ever amount you are willing to pay extra.

In any event, check out your location to see what disasters your area might be likely to endure, but would cause you to lose your stored goods above your insurance policy coverage.

For some information about sink holes and what causes them, take a look at the video.

Prescription Medicines, Supplements, or Home Grown Herbal?

Guaiacum has many medicinal uses.As preppers, it’s important to know how to be prepared for a world changing event when it comes to medicinal needs.  The price of medicines that save life for diseases such as asthma, cancer, and heart disease is extreme.  Since the U.S. does not regulate the price of medicines, there is no limit.  Insurance companies don’t pay the same price for medicines as individuals.  If individuals paid the same as insurance companies, more people would have access to medicines.  For preppers, that’s a sticky wicket.

Nutritional and herbal supplements as well as over the counter medicines are much cheaper than many prescription medicines, but sometimes are not as effective.  Even so, some of them are as much as $30.00 per month or more.  For instance, people with certain lung diseases have to take guaifenesin (guaiphenesin).  The over the counter price per month is higher than most co-pays for higher priced prescription drugs that have similar effects.  In the past, this medicine was by prescription only and the price was lower.  A few years ago it was converted to OTC medicine and the price was raised significantly.  Even the store brands are expensive.  $30 is enough to buy a week’s worth of milk, bread, eggs and cheese for a family of four.

The only answer to this dilemma is research.  Do your homework.  It’s worth the effort.  Look for clinical studies and papers on the subject you are researching. Research not only herbal medicines and nutritional supplements, but also research the prescription drugs you or a family member needs.  Find out what they are made from and how they are made.  You won’t be able to learn everything but you can learn interesting and useful facts.

Guaifenesin, for example, is the drug manufacturer name for a medicinal plant used by native Americans since before Guaiacum plant grows in Jamaica and Hawaii.1533 a.d.  It comes from the guaiacum (guajacum) tree of subtropical and tropical regions. It has multiple uses, but only for one use is it marketed.  It wasn’t until drug companies found a way to put it in a syrup and pill that prescriptions were required.

Once you have the information you need, you will know which of the medicinal plants you can grow in your region and which you can not.  Since guaiacum will not do well in growing zones one through seven, and zone eight could be ify, perhaps stocking up on  guaifenesin is a better alternative for cooler climate zones.

Preparing for the long term medical needs of your family is most important.  If family members are not healthy, are unable to provide assistance during a time of great need, and are slowly dying, the situation for them, and those who watch them suffer is bleak.

Now get busy.  Do your homework.  Take good notes.  There might be a test.

Hurricane Season and Livestock

Hurricane season and livestock are not a well matched pair.  One of the horrid things we see during hurricanes is the loss of livestock.  There are situations where evacuating livestock is not possible but, given the nature of hurricanes, the well prepared farmer will have a plan to evacuate all the livestock he can.

Others don’t even attempt to evacuate them.  Why?  Mostly because of poor planning. Often people purchase insurance to cover agricultural losses.  Animals are property to be insured.  Another reason is because hurricanes are unpredictable until two days out.  By then, most people have evacuated.  They don’t want to take their livestock because they think the chances of hurricane hitting some where else is greater than the chances of it hitting their home.  Lastly, they often think it won’t be as “bad” as that and the animals will be fine.

The prepper view of livestock should be not so willing to abandon animals when the threat of a storm looms in the future.  The purpose of prepping is to have the preps available when the disaster makes itself at home in your front yard.  Your animals should be enjoying the same level of safety as you.  If they are not, aside from being inhumane, you could lose all the time and money you put into raising them.

Deer are part of some preppers' livestock plan.Chickens for instance, take five or six months to start laying eggs.  If you let them die in a disaster, you will have to wait another six months to have fresh eggs while investing the time and money again.  The same goes for the rest of your livestock whether it be deer, hogs, goats or cattle.

What to do?  Plan well in advance. Get to know people in  areas of the state or country who will be willing to temporarily house your animals for you.  You might have to pay them something, but it should be worth it.  If you are friends with landowners a reciprocal agreement for helping each other out in case of such events would be beneficial to both.  Remember, whoever you have these agreements with, the person needs to be outside the potential disaster area.  If your livestock bug-out place is within the zone, you have gained nothing.  Make sure your animals have all their vaccines and other veterinary attention taken care of before hurricane season.  Healthy animals whether stressful situations better.

Consider how you will transport your animals and when you will begin the process of evacuating your animals.  For hurricanes you can have as long as a week or more to decide what to do.  For instance, if you see there is a possibility of evacuating  your livestock you should take the extra bags of food you will need for at least a week to the livestock bug-out location. It would also be a good time to take your veterinary supplies to the bug-out location.

Sometimes it just isn’t possible to evacuate all your livestock, no matter how much you want to.  If this is the case, there are things you should do long before a hurricane is on the way.  Check the barn and other buildings for loose boards, fence or other things that could become flying debris.  Check the buildings routinely to reduce the amount of effort required later. Have a stockpile of fresh water and food for your animals.  Much livestock is lost because they swallowed saltwater.  Animals inside a barn can be seriously injured or killed if a tornado hits the barn.  Animals should not be locked in the barn during a hurricane and will instinctively look for higher ground.  But if your animals are within range of the storm surge, they may experience a higher death rate.

Caged animals and birds can be moved to the safest location in the garage if they can’t go with you.  Remember to take the same precautions in the garage as for the barn.  Once all animals are tended, be sure to turn off electricity and water before you leave.  For the farmer who names his animals before they go to market or become dinner, leaving them behind in such a situation is heartbreaking.

When returning to your home after the disaster, your livestock will need immediate attention.  Take your veterinary first aid kit, and maybe the vet you partnered with for the zombie apocalypse to assess the welfare of each animal.  Getting animals to safety as quickly as possible will be the first priority.

We all hope we don’t have to endure such an event, but if we do, being prepared for our livestock as well as ourselves will save heartache for all.


Prepper Dogs

Will this cute dog bite?If you are like many preppers, there is a dog or two, or maybe more, on your property.  Maybe they live in your house as a member of the family.  Even the yippie little ones are usually good at alerting their owners to an intruder.  A well trained dog can be a vital part of a security plan.

On the other hand, dogs bite people.  Maybe not your dog.  Maybe not yet.  They mostly bite children, men, and old people.  But, according to the CDC, 4.5 million people get bit by dogs each year.  Of those 885,000 get bit seriously enough to require medical attention.  If the bite is severe enough to cause large medical bills or death,or the injured sue dog owners, policy holders file claims against their homeowners policy if they have one.

Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2011, costing nearly $479 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)”.  That is quite a staggering amount of preventable claims.  Insurance companies are in the business of gathering money, not spending it.

Since insurance companies do everything they can to reduce risk, they pay attention to trends, including dog bites.  The increase in bites over time and the increase of claims has gotten their attention.  However, each company is different in its philosophy towards dogs.  Each state makes its own laws regarding insurance companies excluding breed specific dogs.

Insurance companies differ in opinion too.  If a company denies you coverage or excludes Fido, shop around.  Other companies may well not worry about dogs by breed.  Or you may be able to buy a rider or separate policy to cover any potential claims.  Certainly be sure to read your policy to see if dog bites are covered or specifically excluded in your policy.  When reading the policy, pay attention to the dollar amounts of coverage.  If someone wins a case against you and your insurance company pays out it’s part, you could be held liable for the rest or the other party might settle for the payout.  Or any number of other possibilities could happen in relation to the judgement.

Lastly, do everything you can to prevent dog bites.  Make sure your dogs are up to date with their veterinary care and shots.  The CDC offers tips on reducing the risk of dog bites.  All responsible dog owners need to do everything they can to assure their dogs are controllable and controlled.  If they don’t, and the dog bites, there is risk of losing the dog to city, county or state regulations.

Insurance Information Institute

What Does Windstorm and Hail Insurance Cover?

If you live in a coastal region, your home is at risk of hurricane damage.  Your home is important to you and likely you have home owner’s insurance.  But is it insured for windstorm and hail?  How about flooding?  It is important to know what your policy covers.

Windstorm insurance does not cover flooding.Homeowners’ insurance may not cover windstorm, hail or flooding.  It is important to know the risks of the area you live.  For instance, when a hurricane comes, if it doesn’t blow a hole in the wall or rip off part of your roof, you may not be covered for water damage.  Hurricanes bring a tidal surge with them which is labeled flooding by the insurance companies.  If you don’t have flood insurance, you might just be trying to figure out how to pay for an uninhabitable home.

If you live in Texas, you may download a sample of the Texas Windstorm and Hail policy.  Variables are deductibles, premiums, and payout.  Read through the policy to determine what other types of insurance you will need.  Remember, when you file a claim, your property will be “depreciated” by the insurance company.  In other words, you will never get enough money to make life normal again.

The amount of coverage you buy is important too.  Insuring for less than 80% the total value of the property will trigger another depreciation clause on the dwelling.  But, as with all insurance policies, they will never pay out more than the total dollar amount for which you paid premiums.

The policy is very clear on which events it will and will not pay claims.  The policy premium must be paid more than 30 days before the storm to be in effect when a hurricane makes landfall in your neck of the woods.  Keep in mind that policies change from year to year, so you need to evaluate your coverage yearly.  If you don’t understand the policy, ask a licensed insurance agent.

Edit:  Changed “. . . does not cover windstorm . . . ” to read “. . . may not cover windstorm . . .”

Edit:  Changed “. . . you are not be covered . . ” to read ” . . .you may not be covered . . .”

How Preppers Prepare for Hurricane Season

Jasmine blossoms signal the start of hurricane season is near.There is a beautiful jasmine bush on the east side of the garage.  It’s the only place it will grow.  The jasmine scent is amazing!  The blooms bring with it the knowledge that hurricane season is just a short six weeks away.  Each year we look around and see what we can do to prepare just a little bit better should the unthinkable happen to our home.

The key to effective evacuation is prior planning.  Unfortunately, to the majority of residents that means boarding up the house and taking off to some hotel for three or more days.  When they come home, if it was a serious hurricane, there is damage and loss of property.  Along with property losses are the pain and tears that come with not finding special items from the home.

Here are some ways to make preparing for hurricane season easy and less stressful:

  • Make a written inventory of non-replaceable items you can’t imagine living without, check them off when packed.
  • Purchase plastic tubs with lids to store items during evacuation.  Practice putting the items in the tubs to be sure you have enough tubs.
  • Make sure your wind storm and flood insurance is paid more than 30 days before storm season
  • Make an evacuation plan.  No, not just jumping in the car and leaving.  A serious plan.  Consider it a bug-out plan.
  • Consider home security while you are away.  There are always looters.
  • If you have livestock or pets, plan and practice how to evacuate them.
  • Plan to make more than one trip to the bug-out location if you have livestock to evacuate.
  • Plan how to evacuate or protect your preps.
  • Time yourself with each evacuation activity practice so you know how much time it will take you to evacuate.
  • Remember to prepare your windmills and solar power equipment for the high winds.
  • If your greenhouses are of the kind that can be disassembled quickly, staking the parts flat on the ground should help them remain still during high winds.
  • Remember, your plants will not whine, cry, complain or ask “are we there yet” when you move them.  But they may cringe when you eat them.
  • Evacuate early.  Don’t wait until the mandatory evacuation date.
  • Don’t be complacent.  Just because your coastal region has not experienced a hurricane in recent history doesn’t mean it’s immune to one.

Most people spend their time during evacuation in a hotel or at family and friends homes. Finding a hotel room during an evacuation can mean driving at least eight hours to find a room. The purchase of an acre of land outside the hurricane zone provides a guaranteed location for evacuation that can also be used to store preps year around.  For the average prepper family with a small operation, these plans are necessary.

Yet Another Reason to Prepare – Social Networking and Preppers

Social Networking and preppers.Preppers usually know that what happens on the internet stays on the internet – forever.  Except in France, but that is another story.

We also know various companies are using the social networking sites to find out as much about you as they can before they decide to give you a job.  They also use it to decide if they are going to loan you money or extend you credit.  Insurance companies gather as much information about you they can from social media sites, or they hire a private detective to do it for them.  They use the information to determine if they want to insure you, which claims to pay and whether or not to pay or discontinue disability or other benefits.  What can they get off those sites?

They can access all sorts of information they have no legal right, it would actually be illegal, to ask of you.  So can employers.  Not a big deal, right?  You’ve got nothing to hide?

Lenders will use algorithms currently in development to “see” who your “friends” are on all the social media sites and decide your future based on whether or not they like who they see.

With these new super-secret algorithms, used for this purpose, they will find the stuff you deleted last month because you plan to apply for a loan or credit.  It will still be on your friends’ sites.

It would be a fair guess to think that might be why social media sites set their privacy policies in such a manner as to make it contractually legal to sell access to their databases.

Why would I think that?  Because as the number of institutions using the algorithm increases, so will bandwidth usage on the social media sites.  Someone has to pay for that bandwidth.  No, social media sites won’t let that go unpaid.  And, they are in the business of selling “people” to the companies that currently advertise on those sites.

Turning over the passwords to all your social media sites will be required to get credit from these lenders.  They will use that information for several purposes:

  • Determine if your friends are financially stable enough to make you a good risk
  • Market products to your friends
  • Send messages to your friends from your accounts
  • Those messages will also include telling all your “friends” if you have missed some payments.

With employers, insurance companies, and lenders looking at your social media to gain information they can’t legally ask, they will misconstrue, take out of context, and assume meaning that does not exist.  They will use that information to discriminate in ways the Constitution of the United States forbids.

What we can do about it:

  • Do not use real names.  Pseudonyms are legal!  You just can’t intend to defraud people.
  • Use an email service such as gmail or yahoo instead of an address that leads back to your front door when signing up for social media sites.
  • If you do use your real name, be selective about who you “friend”.
  • Demand laws protecting citizens who decline to provide social media account information.  Some people drink on Friday nights until they are drunk, get photographs posted about it, but still pay their bills on time!
  • Lastly, if we all stopped using social media, our businesses might suffer, but everyone would get the message.  We would all connect on forums and lists, as we did in the past, where we have some anonymity until we decide to whom and when to reveal information.


Preppers: Prepared for Drought, Again?

Preppers, are you ready for another year of drought?

During the drought, that still continues in many states, farmers across America filed claims for disaster relief and to their crop insurers.

Crops were not harvested because farmers said they couldn’t get enough money at market for their crop to pay for the fuel to harvest.  Crop insurance adjusters worked to visit every farm to assess damages.   Those who do not buy crop insurance could lose a lot more than crops.

What about the prepper, who often is a back yard farmer?  Will your water well go dry?  Many did.  Should you use city water, if available, for irrigation?  What if the city enters stage three or four water conservation?  That will mean little to no watering of any garden or yard.

While the drought has lessened for a few states, the rest of the country is still struggling with water issues.   Even Alaska and Hawaii are drought stricken. Large portions of Texas has already entered stage three water restrictions.   The glistening ocean provides little, if any rain.  It’s frustrating to see the ocean and not have rain.  City water is expensive. Those of you without a water well, in these parts, it will cost in the neighborhood of $5,000 to get a water well 120 feet deep.  

If you don’t have a water well, this might be the time to get one if you can find the money.   Some years ago, in Hays, Kansas, the drought lasted several years.  Water was not just restricted, it was rationed.  The saying was, “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”.   Toilet paper went in the trash, not the pot.  No outdoor watering, no washing cars, and absolutely no swimming pools.  

If you exceeded your monthly allotment, or got water on the sidewalk or street, you got a warning for the first offence, a ticket for the second, and a trip to see the judge for the third offence.  During this time, if you did not already have a water well, you were not allowed to drill a new one.  People who had water wells were told not to use them.  It was the city’s statement that those who used from their own water wells were taking water from the aquifer from which the city water wells were also drawing water. 

As a prepper, having a water well is an integral part of the survival plan.  However, in the case of drought, don’t be surprised if cities and states restrict the use of your privately owned water wells.  Have another plan.



The Dental Dilemma: Braces for Johnny or Generator for the House?

Priorities, priorities, that is what we have to decide. Unlike the leaders in Washington, we have to balance our checkbook! The past dental articles I wrote concerned getting and keeping your mouth healthy so if a disaster occurs, we shouldn’t have to worry about intolerable throbbing pain in the mouth. But, some dental treatment is optional, and expensive.

Preppers choose dental work based on budget.Dentists are constantly frustrated by the fact that half of the dental population in the USA only comes in for treatment when something is bothering them. The reason for delay is fear of the dentist and lack of money to pay for the treatment. Most dental insurance provided by the employer has a maximum coverage per year. Reach that limit, and the rest comes out of your pocket. With the federal government printing paper money to ‘increase jobs’, the result is the dollar that is worth less and everything costs more, including dental treatment. So don’t spend your money on treatment that can be avoided.

Avoid root canals, the tooth may last only eight years, and then need extraction! When decay invades the tooth and reaches the nerve, the pain is usually prolonged sensitivity to cold or hot. A dental x-ray will help determine if you need a root canal treatment. Dental specialists, Endodontists, do this treatment better and faster than a General Dentist, but charge more. Since the life of a tooth is limited once a root canal is done (the root becomes brittle and can fail), a cheaper solution is extraction and replacement. Replacement can be an expensive implant or less costly partial denture. Or going see many people like that.

Avoid braces for Johnny. The parents want a beautiful smile, but is it necessary? One dental argument is that the teeth need to be straight for cleaning..but as a Periodontist I can say that usually that isn’t needed. When the child grows up he or she can send themselves to college and get a pretty smile. If a disaster happens, being a Prepper may be a way of helping your family survive.

Avoid having wisdom teeth extracted. Getting them extracted can prevent future periodontal disease in that area, but it takes a long time for that to occur. Also, having them extracted early can help bone regeneration. The oral surgeon likes to take all four out under sedation. That is nice for his pocket book. Delay this procedure in most cases and buy prepper supplies. Studies have shown that the wisdom teeth do NOT make your teeth crooked!! Myself, I can afford the treatment for my grandchildren, but will be using an experienced military trained general dentist who will use local anesthesia (shots only) and do two teeth at a time, leaving one side to eat. I feel that this decision is cheaper and safer than IV sedation.

My suggestion is delay the braces and buy a generator, food for an extended period of time, or whatever you think will help your family survive if the lights go off for a long, long time.