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10 Prepping Mistakes That Could Kill You (and how to avoid them)

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Everyone makes mistakes, but when it comes to Prepping, all of our efforts are directed toward actions that are designed to either keep us safer, prolong our lives or stave off some disaster that could be prevented with a little foresight and planning. When it comes to survival, mistakes can kill you and that is the last thing we want to happen isn’t it?

In this article I wanted to discuss some common prepping mistakes that I have seen over the years and ideas I have that I believe will help the person new to prepping avoid them. I do this with the hopes that others will realize how some of these actions can put you at a distinct disadvantage in your prepping efforts in the best case, but could result in death in others.

Preparing for a single event

All too often we come to the world of prepping due to outside stimulus. Something triggers either an awareness or sense of need in us that drives us to learn more about being prepared. For a lot of people out there, Y2K was just this type of event and before the clock struck midnight on December 31st 1999 millions of dollars had been spent on survival gear and preparedness items to plan for the disaster that was supposed to happen. As you all know by now, nothing happened at midnight; planes didn’t fall from the sky and our country wasn’t sent back to the Stone Age.

When this happened a lot of people became disillusioned with prepping. They looked at the money they had spent on supplies and felt foolish for believing the hype about the approaching doomsday scenario. As a result, they sold all of their gear on Ebay and a lot of people were able to buy unwanted survival supplies for very cheap.

Preparedness shouldn’t be for a single event. You should prepare for any event that could put you or your family in danger. There are common prepping basics you should follow and while they might be motivated by a single event like the threat of Ebola, you shouldn’t believe that if Ebola never happens that all of your preparations are worthless. Think of all the people who sold their freeze-dried food, survival weapons and gear. If we had another disaster after they sold their supplies, they would have been back at square one and just as desperate as someone who didn’t prepare at all.

Preparing for a specific date

Another mistake is not being able to treat injuries.

Similar to people who planned for Y2K, there were those who feared the Mayan Calendar ending at the end of 2012. They did the same thing when nothing happened and the world kept on spinning. The danger of prepping for a specific threat that is date-based is believing that nothing else in the world could happen to you. Natural disasters in the form of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, winter storms happen every year and any supplies you store should keep you alive regardless of the disaster. Don’t believe that if the world doesn’t end, you will never see any disruption causing event in your life.

Even people as far south as Atlanta were caught unprepared last year as a relatively minor winter storm stranded thousands of motorists on the side of the road. Now, I will grant you that this isn’t as ominous as the end of the world as we know it, but wouldn’t you rather have supplies in your car if you were stranded due to a winter storm that caught you by surprise? Most disasters don’t keep appointments so you never know when they will strike. It is better to be prepared all of the time instead of when the calendar says a disaster is supposed to happen.

Bragging about your prepping supplies

I advocate that everyone should practice OPSEC as much as possible to avoid the problem of having hordes or your friends and neighbors appear on your doorstep in the event of a disaster. When you tell everyone that you have food stored up, weapons and ammo and all the supplies you would need to last for years if the grid goes down, you are inviting trouble.

In desperate times, people who have nowhere to turn will act out of desperation. Your friends who didn’t prepare will view your food supplies as necessary to keeping their children alive. By your actions of bragging about what you have, you now have a potential threat to your life and the lives of your family in someone who knows that you have food and who knows their children will die without it. Keep your preparations secret unless you want to share with the world. In that case, expect your food, supplies and anything you have to be taken from you in a worst case scenario.

If you think you can just show up at a prepper's home and spit in his face, you might be in for a surprise.

If you think you can just show up at a prepper’s home and spit in his face, you might be in for a surprise.

Planning on being a criminal

There is a sub-culture of people in the world who are not preppers in the true sense of the word. They are predators, but they hang around in the circles of survival and preparedness websites. They share some common traits with preppers in that they see the possibility of a SHTF event in their future, but instead of planning ahead, storing food and supplies and trying to become self-sufficient, they plan to take what others have. If this is you, I want to let you know you are making a huge prepping mistake.

Those who ascribe to the theory that when we reach some TEOTWAWKI event, they will just grab their guns and take whatever they need to survive, will be in for a rude awakening. Just as they have prepared to take by force, preppers are preparing to defend with force. In that scenario someone is going to die. My money is on the prepper who is defending his family. Sure, you may get away with some violence, but it will catch up to you. My advice is to forget this idea and start taking steps to prepare your family with supplies you acquire. It will make you appreciate what you have more and could keep you from getting shot in the face as you try to steal from someone else.

Buying a fortune in food you hate

I will admit that the easiest (but not cheapest) way to stock up on food that will last a long time is to purchase a pallet of freeze-dried food. Throw this in your basement and you will be prepared to last a long time without the benefit of your local grocery store but what if your family hates the freeze-dried food you have? What if they have allergies to the ingredients? What if you bought from a supplier who wasn’t really reputable and instead of lasting 25 years that stored food went bad without you knowing it?

Food Storage seems like a complicated thing, but it isn’t. Start by stocking more of what your family already eats. You can augment that with some freeze-dried foods, but make sure you test this with your family first to get their take on what they will be forced to eat possibly to survive. Try several manufacturers; try alternate forms of long-term storable food like MREs, but more importantly plan for providing your own fresh food. Vegetable Gardens and small livestock are much better than a pallet of food in the basement.

Thinking you will be able to defend your home against all invaders

We simply don’t live in defend-able structures anymore unless you have built a custom compound on hundreds of acres in the wilderness. Most of us live near cities even if our suburban lives allow us to see more trees between ourselves and our neighbors than our city cousins. If a collapse happens and violence breaks out, you will not be able to defend your home against an overwhelming determined force. You may survive if you are able to band together and create a neighborhood defense plan with your fellow neighbors. This may work or it may be impossible depending on the circumstances and you could end up needing to leave.

Have a plan to bug out if that becomes necessary. My own personal plan is to shelter in place for as long as feasible but if the situation dictates that my neighborhood is no longer safe, my family will be heading out. Make sure you have a plan B.

Believing that a gun is all you need

I believe that every law abiding citizen can use a firearm as long as they are trained to defend themselves in certain situations. However, just because you have a gun that doesn’t mean you are going to shoot your way out of a firefight like a Navy Seal. Guns are tools but they require a lot of skill to be used effectively in highly stressful situations. You might think that if you have a gun, that is all you need to defend your family but it isn’t that simple.

Take the time to practice with your firearms often. Beyond going to the range and killing paper zombies, sign up for classes that put you in different scenarios with stress that is similar to what you will experience in a real life or death situation. At bare minimum look at this firearm as a tool that is only capable of what you are capable of doing. If you can’t handle it properly under pressure it could end up getting you killed instead of saving your life.

Prepping in isolation

There are a lot of preppers who “wake up” for lack of a better term to the world around them and begin well in advance of any of their loved ones to feel a sense of urgency. In some cases, this can lead to frustration and even outright animosity towards the notion of prepping from spouses or family. A common question then becomes how can I get my spouse on board with prepping. If a prepper isn’t succeeding on one front they may try to hide their prepping and that usually doesn’t bode well.

Prepping is most effective when you have a team of people moving toward a common goal. Prepping should be a family affair if possible so that if nothing else, everyone in your family knows what you are trying to do and why this is important to them. Naturally if you have small children you have some limitations, but if you go it alone without getting your family on board, they might not be prepared to act in a crisis. Without a plan and direction, this could get some people killed.

At some point you have to stop making lists and act.

At some point you have to stop making lists and act.

Analysis Paralysis

Some people like lists. My wife is a huge fan of lists and draws them up on a daily basis for what she needs to do each hour of the day. When you start prepping, one of the things that I recommend after you think about what you are prepping for and who you are prepping for is to make lists of items you feel would make you more prepared. This can get into a world of side issues and specific areas of expertise as you research and investigate. I have seen people with multiple tabbed spreadsheets with items they want to purchase with comparisons between vendors and prices online. The net effect is that some people research for years before they ever do anything and it doesn’t matter if you have the most thorough and complete plan on paper; if disaster strikes you have to roll with what you have and what you know.

Take basic steps now to cover the biggest bases of preparedness. Get a month worth of food and water taken care of before you develop your 5-year plan. If you don’t have the money for the perfect survival arsenal, get a fairly cheap shotgun and learn how to use it. If the world has gone to hell, something will be better than nothing.

Thinking you can save the world by yourself

This might be the hardest to reconcile for my Christian readers because we are called to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. This phrase from the bible is most often associated with charity and whole reams of paper have been expended on how we can plan for charity in our prepping supplies. I believe that there is a place for charity and I will plan on taking care of those who are in need. To a point.

My primary goal in prepping is to provide safety and security for my family. After that has been accomplished, I will do what I can to offer assistance to those who need it. I won’t be opening my doors to everyone and I won’t sacrifice my family’s safety or security for everyone who has a need. I will have to reconcile my actions when the time is right, but I do anticipate turning some away. I think if you go into thinking about a world in chaos and expect everything to be sunshine and lollipops, you could be in for a rude awakening. Charity will be dispensed with the utmost of discretion and it is my goal to make sure that as much as possible nobody knows the charity I am dispensing. If you want to feed someone try to arrange to deliver food or supplies to a third-party like a community center or church anonymously.  This will keep my family safe and it could protect yours as well.

Those are my 10 prepping mistakes and this article ended up being longer than I expected. If you hung in till the end I would like to hear your thoughts below. Stay safe, and keep Prepping.

 

 

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  • Nicole

    For some odd reason, the bit about isolation had me wondering about disabled individuals who, like elderly men and women,could have disadvantages that affect their ability to survive a SHTF situation. Then again, it may be possible that their day to day activities already prepare them for alternative ways to do things in manners that able-bodied people take for granted or may not have considered.

    For this reason I think it might be helpful to master various ways to communicate (verbal and non-verbally, etc.) and other activities that impact our survival. As off-topic as this idea may seem, I think the disabled and/or elderly could be great examples when trying to get family and friends to take prepping seriously by understanding that dependency is a liability for both sides;the dependent’s chances of survival is in the hands of another person; the provider’s survival is affected by his or her burden of having to save someone else who either can’t (or won’t as is often the case) fend for themselves.

    The more people that prep responsibility and with some balance and flexibility like you mention, the better off most of everyone (I’m referring to those who have taken precautions for SHTF) will be in riding out the wave and handling situations as they come. Every person has the responsibility to save himself or herself by doing something and if family, friends and neighbors, co-workers, etc. do their part, then it helps the whole of communities who want to live. It reminds me of a Stevie Wonder quote I read somewhere that said “We all have ability. The difference is how we use it.”

    • Thank you Nicole,

      You bring up a larger point that we have addressed on this site too about older or disabled individuals. It is very imperative that people in that scenario plan to expand their group for the reasons you mention. Even if they have developed coping mechanisms, that is likely still in a grid-up world.

      Pat

  • jr

    your y2k reminded me of the co i worked for was owned by a hospital, did y2k plan the building already had a generator and they did some other preps even had porta potties delivered. but did not have even 1 5 gallon bottle of water delivered.
    machines need water, cleaning equipment needed water and people working also need water
    so all the mds and phds missed a very basic thing

    • Good point JR. Also, I have seen these same facilities that have those $50,000 generators but only enough fuel to run for a few hours. Prepping for disaster really requires you to think holistically and there are a lot of moving pieces.

      Pat

  • BobW

    Overall, some good observations.

    On Isolation: My wife was definitely looking at me like I was crazy the first couple times I brought the topic up. Why would we need dozens of pounds of rice in the basement? Why do you want cases of canned meats? It didn’t click for her until she was having lunch with a girlfriend who asked what we were doing ‘in case of a disaster.” Her friend is former Army, and hearing a ‘normal’ person talk about having supplies clued the wife in that maybe I wasn’t just going crazy. Having her friend know anything about our preps isn’t a bad thing. She’s the one who will show up with her S packed in 1-sock.

    On Charity: I’ve read several articles here and elsewhere discussing dealing with teary eyed friends/neighbors. I’ve come to the conclusion that like most things, that charity is situationally dependent. If it really hits the fan, and there is no access to food/water, charity goes on the back shelf until I have determined that I actually have enough to take care of my own ‘for the long haul.’ I understand that there may well be real horror just outside my door, as hungry and desperate neighbors see their families wither and weaken, but as mentioned, I will not allow the same to happen to mine if isolation would have prevented it. I already know this will wind up being a fight with the wife, but I’ve got some time to toughen her to the realities a real disaster will bring. As you mentioned, covertly delivering a couple cans of beenie weenies to a hurting friend/neighbor might be work, but it sure beats having a desperate person beating on my door tomorrow for more beenie weenies. Other than chatting with a few friends about guns, no one I know knows anything about our preps. They are far from complete, but they are mine, and intended to hopefully save my family, not feed a starving neighborhood for a few days.

    • olivia

      I came to the hard decision that because my husband and I are elderly, and he is not in good health……I can’t prepare for extra people. I will just live with the guilt after I make sure I can keep us alive. Next door we have a family of 14 and on the other side a family of 5 (all adults in this home). All of them live payday to payday. Short of just opening my home and allowing our supplies to be gone in a week, there is nothing I can do. I do plan on making one bucket with dried beans, rice, seasoning and maybe some hard candy….but I will not give it directly to the family with all the kids…..will just leave it by their door. I keep my mouth shut and share our plans with no one, even family. All around me I see people who will either pray and expect God or the government to take care of them…..forget about the fact that God gave us a brain and I would assume he expects us to use it. Even the government instructs us to prepare supplies for 72 hours. Yea, I can learn to live with guilt.

    • Sounds like we have a similar situation Bob. I am planning for my family first and foremost. If anything is possible after that point I will look to charity, but it likely will be doled out in a very prejudicial way. If we get to a point like that, it will be ugly all around so my first bet is to not let anyone know anything period but life has a way of messing up your plans.

      Did you see the After Armageddon special? The girl’s boyfriend was giving food to the neighbor because he felt bad. There will always be wildcards that you will have to deal with. Your best plans will need to be adjusted.

  • porkybeans

    Thanks for the good and interesting read. However all is for naught if you start sharing. No disrespec intended, but if you share, you die. That includes family with members who refused to prep. That “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, means you must love yourself first. thanks

    • usmarinestanker

      Well, that’s one way to look at it.

      I’m more inclined to fall in line with Pat and BobW: charity is ok if you and yours have enough. Sharing does not have to be the immediate death knell or you if done wisely.

      You might find it interesting reading up on the philosophy of Marginal Utility which advocates that it is the most moral to do with as little as possible and to share the rest with as many as possible. This limit is self-determined, and the philosophy posits that helping others to the point of being detrimental to yourself becomes immoral since you have an obligation to preserve your own life. The works of John Stuart Mill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stuart_Mill) also contain a wealth of thoughts on utilitarianism and the roles of freedom and personal responsibility to community.

      At any rate there’s a lot of room for self-assessment, which I find invaluable. Keep prepping!

  • doug

    thanks – super-great-way you shared the information
    – and to me ‘it-all’ was not too long = ‘completeness’ is the by-word here, because each point raised several queries to consider ….
    what really impressed me was that each ‘mistake’ was specifically phrased as a ‘reason’ – with then a validating ‘rationale’ that i could use and/or apply to my specific situation
    —- and as i read and interpreted your notes = you indicated balance and responsibility and flexibility in each aspect is crucial
    —- again = ‘all’ very well said ….

  • Very useful information. Thanks