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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Video Tutorial: Long-Term Food Storage

When preparing dried foods for long-term storage, keeping the food away from oxygen, moisture and vermin is paramount (and as a commenter on YouTube noted, it keeps the food away from light - a BIG destroyer of nutrients - as well).

This video tutorial demonstrates how to store rice in mylar bags and food-grade buckets.  This same technique works equally well with any dried grains or legumes such as wheat, corn, beans and barley.

Rice (and most dried grains and legumes) stored in this manner can expect to have a shelf life of more than 20 years if kept below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Accept The Challenge

Buying food in bulk is a great way to put large amounts of food into storage for very little cost.  The rice in this video was on sale for $0.35 a pound.  So the 40 pounds was $14.  Remember:  that cost includes deilvery as well.  The bucket and lid were $8.92, the mylar bag was $1.82, the oxygen absorbers were $0.15 each - $0.60 total.  Grand total for everything - $25.34.

Walton Feed (whom I love) wants $36.25 for the same set-up (4 more pounds of rice - so you can deduct $1.40 if you want to!).  BUT to have it shipped to California is another $25.01, for a grand total of $61.26 - more than twice the cost.

Put a little time and effort into your food storage preparedness, and you can significantly stretch your prepping dollars.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

More Useless Laws Gone Bust

A new tutorial long-term food storage will be posted tomorrow.

In the mean time, on the "personal freedom" watch, once again, laws designed to control the behavior of individuals have failed.  Instead of treating adults as adults, our state and federal legislators believe they know what's best for us.  Instead of punishing people for their actions which harm others, we live in a quasi "Minority Report" society where you can be found guilty of something without even infringing on the rights of another citizen.

Here in California, we had a law passed that required cell phone users to use wireless headsets.  The legislature all nodded and "harumphed" and agreed that us stooooopid people just didn't know any better than to pay attention while we're driving.  So, with great fanfare, it became against the law to talk on your cell phone without a hands-free device while driving.

I felt safer instantaneously.  Not.

It seems that the Highway Loss Data Institute - a non-profit entity funded by the auto insurance industry - found that is was just another useless law.  Think about this:  Could there be an organization that would be more supportive of restrictions on cells while driving?  If this law even had marginally reduced accidents, wouldn't this organization scream that at the top of its non-profit lungs?

Their findings -
A new study suggests that laws banning talking on or sending text messages with cell phones while driving may not significantly decrease the risk of traffic accidents.
Now, their findings did report that the California law DID get more drivers to wear the wireless head-sets.  There is just one problem -
That said, the laws banning handheld phone usage have been effective in getting people to use hands-free devices for driving, the study suggests. But there is no indication that hands-free devices have reduced the number of car accidents that occur.
That's right:  The law is as useless as teats on a bull.

As they reviewed data, they found that these laws were essentially just a way for state legislatures to wield control over their subjects citizens and raise money from fines.
Research for the study, published Friday, was collected in New York, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, and California. Data was also collected and evaluated from nearby states that do not have such bans, for the sake of comparison. The Highway Loss Data Institute's research indicates that car collision rates didn't change after bans went into effect--and they didn't change for nearby states without such bans, either.
Still, more of the same is coming down the pike at the federal level.
Indeed, Rader said the study also indicates that even though cell phone usage nationally has exploded over the past several years, and more than 89 percent of the U.S. population owns a cell phone, there has been no uptick nationally in the number of car accidents. 
The study comes at a time when the federal government is considering bans on the use of cell phones by drivers. 
Never let good data get in the way of a bad law.  Any bets on if this will be passed?

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shotguns - Shooting Slugs

I'm off in a bit to teach a student how to shoot a shotgun using slugs.

The techniques used for shooting slugs are slightly different that when shooting birdshot.  The biggest difference is that when shooting slugs, if you don't employ a very steady stance, you pay dearly.  Well, your shoulder pays dearly.

With birdshot, if the butt of the rifle isn't securly placed against the shoulder, you will get a little bit of "slap" - the butt slamming into your shoulder.  With slugs (or with most buck shot), if the butt of the shotgun is not firmly against the shoulder before you pull the trigger, you have a real chance of hurting yourself.

The recoil is impressive, to say the least!

I teach a stance that has the student facing the target with their feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.  The right foot (assuming a right-handed shooter) comes back slightly, and the left foot comes forward slightly.  You want a slight bend to the knees and a slight forward-leaning stance.

The butt of the shotgun is placed firmly against the shoulder, and the left hand is up on the forestock slightly pushing forwards.  All of this - the knees, the leaning forward, tight against the shoulder and the slight forward pressure on the forestock - help to absorb a good deal of the recoil and provide better control of the gun.  And save your shoulder lots of pain!

The biggest issue is getting my students to shoot a second shot!  Most have come from my pistol classes, and the recoil of a handgun - even something large - is a world apart from a shotgun blast.

I take them through a number of drills to help to alleviate the outright fear many feel after simply hearing a shotgun blast.  Most are able to understand the concepts and truly appreciate how proper technique can make shooting slugs a part of their self-defense (and hunting) skills.

Accept The Challenge

As with all firearms, before you fire a new type of gun, get training first.  The safety features and operations vary significantly between types of guns - handguns, rifles or shotguns.

Be safe by getting trained.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

All Over The Board

I'm working on a how-to video, and preparing for an upcoming magazine interview on my business (woo hoo!), so here's a bit of stream-of-consciousness for ya...

More news on the disaster -
The White House in a statement outlined the aim is to alleviate "the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures ... to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, ...

Haiti? No, Arizona.

The rest of the paragraph -
... and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Apache, Coconino, and Navajo Counties and the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation within these counties."

This part of the state got hammered by snow storms. Apparently, no one prepared for a snow storm in Arizona.

This is just like our recent post about a tornado hitting in Northern California. I have lived in this area for my entire lifetime. I can never remember a tornado even being considered here.

Yet it just happened.

Don't prepared for specific disasters. The one that hits may not be on your list! Plan for the impact of the disaster.

The people of Arizona are learning that lesson the hard way.

There's a new source for freeze dried meats on the market.  Shelf Reliance now carries freeze dried roast beef, ground beef, ham, turkey, chicken and sausage (listed at the bottom of the page).

The can contents seem to be anywhere from 1.06  pounds to 1.81 pounds.  When price-comparing to other vendors, be sure to calculate based upon weight and not can size.

We're seeing a LOT more of these in our area as of late.  It's only a matter of time before one of these incidents gets ugly.
A Round Table Pizza employee was robbed at gunpoint while he was outside the restaurant on a break Thursday night, according to Antioch police.

The victim, a 22-year-old Oakley resident, was outside the restaurant at 4504 Lone Tree Way shortly after 6 p.m. when a man approached him and brandished a gun.

There were conflicting descriptions of the gunman, but police believe he was between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed about 160 pounds. He was wearing a bandana over his face and a hooded sweatshirt.
Lone Tree Way is the major thoroughfare going through Antioch.  It's not like the robbery happened in some dark alley or in the seedy part of town.

Two virtually identical robberies (bandanna masks and drawn guns) occurred in my town this past weekend.
Two men robbed a couple of women at gunpoint in a movie theater parking lot Thursday evening, police said.

Both suspects were described as Latino, about 5 feet 6 and 150 pounds. One had a white and black bandanna over his face and was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt with a zipper and a black design on it as well as baggy jeans.

The second suspect was reported as being in his late teens with a thin build and dark hair. He also was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, along with dark pants and an unknown-colored bandanna over his face.
Out here in "East County", we tend to have a much higher ownership of guns than the rest of our largely gun-adverse county.  One of these bandanna bandits is going to run into a gun owner, and someone is going to go, "splat". 

Hopefully, it will mean it's the end of the mini-crime wave.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Emergency Food Bar Review

I recently did an update to my Bug Out Bag (BOB)/Get Home Bag (GHB) to swap out my summer clothes with some more appropriate winter clothes.  Since I was there, I decided to swap out the Mayday Survival Bar that had been in the bag for the past 3 years.  I ordered a Mainstay Emergency Food Ration bar to replace the Mayday bar.  Since I had purchased too many of them, I decided to do a comparison.

The idea behind these types of bars is that they are high-density foods.  They don't take up a lot of space or weight, and they provide a bunch of calories - perfect for an emergency bag of some sort.

A couple of things:

  • Both of the bars tout the fact that they are a non-thirst provoking food - they don't make you crave water.
  • The older Mayday bar was 3 years old, and the Mainstay was 1 year old.  The shelf-life of both bars is supposed to be 5 years.
  • The Mayday bar was a 2400-calorie bar, the Mainstay was a 3600-calorie bar.
  • I don't have a financial interest in either company.

We both like the newer Mainstay bar better.  The flavor was better, and the cookie was much more moist.

One thing I was a bit disapointed in with the Mainstay, was that the package gave the impression that the 9 individual 400-calorie blocks were each individually wrapped.  Like the Mayday bar, the entire block is wrapped as a single unit.  Because of this, I recommend that you buy the bars in the one day, 1200-calorie bars. 

If you were in some sort of emergency that involved water (flooding, mud slides, levee breaks, having to cross creeks/rivers, etc.) having an entire 3-day bar unwrapped is risking your survival food.  

In a couple of years, when I swap out the Mainstay bars, I'll test them against a newer Mayday bar to see if the Mainstays dry out like it appears the Mayday bars do.

Accept The Challenge

These types of foods are a perfect compliment to a BOB/GHB.  I am a bit suprised at the price difference between the bars.  I'm able to find the "losing" Mayday bars for a bit over $3 per 1200-calorie bar.  The best price I can find on the Mainstay bar is about $4 (some sites were as high as $9 for the 1200-cal bar!).

I was pretty pleasantly surprised that the bars tasted pretty good.  Although the texture of the Mayday bar was overly dry, its flavor was still pretty good.  After doing some more research, I understand they supposedly taste like apple and cinnamon.  Ok, I'll have to take their word for it.  Still, they were quite edible.

I have a bunch of the newly-purchased 3600-calorie Mainstay bars.  I'm going to break them down into 1200-calorie portions, and vacuum seal them back up.

Make sure you have emergency drinking water in your BOB/GHB.  "Non-thirst provoking" or not, you need some liquids when eating either of these bars!
Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Digital Tripwires

Any good emergency plan includes sources of information that can help a planner anticipate future events.  They use this information so that they can act now to lessen any negative impacts.  The general term used is, tripwires.  These can include things such as economic indicators, or a Civil Defense siren sounding, or a tornado alert being issued.

How can you position yourself to ensure you receive these alerts or information in a timely basis?  Some items, because of their nature, won't be reported until the emergency has already occurred.  An example of this would be a train car full of a dangerous substance overturning.  You can make plans for such an accident, but you can't normally predict when or where it will happen.

Most communities have some sort of emergency alert system that will report this.  It may include notification through the TV or radio.  Our county has an automated phone system that calls home phone numbers that might be affected by an accident or other similar incident.

As I noted in Emergency Notifications, California has a fantastic alert system that uses email or SMS text messages to make notifications.  Just yesterday, I got notification of a tornado that had actually formed in my city here in Northern California!

It worked like a charm.  Our personal Shelter In Place, and GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) plans were immediately put on alert.  The storm passed fairly quickly, and we didn't need to put either plan into effect - but we were ready, because we were informed.

What about slower moving incidents or trends?  Things like the economy, world events or proposed legislation.  How do you gather the information you need without having to read every single newspaper, blog post or magazine that is out there?

I use Google Alerts.

These allow you to receive email notification whenever your particular item-of-interest is posted anywhere on the Internet.  Any news article, any blog post - anywhere.

They work best when you have very specific and unique search strings.  You "focus" the search by placing the search words in quotes.  For instance, I have one set up to keep tabs on a piece of California legislation on Shall Issue gun permits.  It is called AB 357.  If I just put in AB 357 as the string, I'll get alerts on anything with AB in it, and anything with 357 in it.

Information overload.

If I make the search, "AB 357" - putting the whole string in quotes, I will only get alerts when the entire string is published somewhere.

You can set the alerts to email you immediately, once a day or once a week.  You can have them search everything on the Internet ('comprehensive'), just the news, or even just stuff that is in video form.

Take a look at these economic tripwires one person has established.

If you were to agree with these indicators, you could set up Alerts for, "dollar index", "ARM mortgage resets" or "wholesale food prices".


The Google alerts allow you to use any email account (even non-Gmail accounts) to receive the notifications, but you have much more flexibility to manage and update your alerts if you have a Gmail account.  It can be a bit of a pain setting up a Gmail account, as you must first set up a Google account, which is tied to an outside email address.  I have no idea why they make it so difficult to do this, but they're all now gazillionaires, so they must know what they're doing.

Accept The Challenge

What things need to happen to make certain parts of your emergency preps kick into action?  Natural  disasters?  Specific business failures or earnings reports?  Overseas financial trends?  Inflation?  Deflation?

I also have them set up to report any time my business is mentioned on the Internet, or when any of my business partners are mentioned.  It helps me keep up with any good or bad things being published.  I can then take advantage of an opportunity, or squash inaccurate information before it spreads.

If you haven't set up tripwires - things that must happen before you act on a part of your plan - you need to do so immediately.  Being caught off-guard does not have to happen.  Free, easily-customizable tools are available to keep you informed of the world around you.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Owning A Gun In California

Considering what is happening in the country, and around the world right now, I thought I'd share the most recent issue of our weekly newsletter with the readers of our blog.  I realize that this is common sense to most folks that wander by this way, but I think it bears repeating.
Owning a Gun in California

Because of the complexity of this issue, we're breaking this down into two parts. The first part will cover the WHY, the second part will cover the HOW.

Random Acts of Violence

Our society has a love/hate relationship with guns. So many of us have been led to believe that guns are evil. They're not: Guns are a tool. It is the individual using the gun that is good or evil.

In response to horrific acts committed by deranged people, our legislators pass "feel good" laws - such as establishing "gun free zones" - which restrict the ability of law-abiding citizens to provide for their own self-defense. These do nothing to actually increase our safety.

Don't think so? Then answer these questions: Who won't have a means of self-defense in a gun-free zone? Answer: A law abiding citizen. Who WILL have a weapon? Answer: A mentally unstable person bent on killing as many people as possible. They choose gun-free zones because they know there will be little chance of resistance.

Do you think that a sign on a wall declaring a place to be a gun-free zone will cause a criminal to suddenly obey the law?

Consider this: When was the last time you heard of a crazed person shooting up a police station? Sounds ridiculous, right? I can't recall any such incidents. Everyone in that station has a means of self-defense and the criminals know it.

Look at the recent Fort Hood Army Base massacre: Amazingly, military bases are largely full of unarmed soldiers. It took civilian police officers to stop the assailant - a soldier who knew his fellow soldiers were unarmed - after he had already killed 13 and wounded more than 30 people.

In any of the recent mass shootings (Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood), how many fewer dead or injured would there have been had there been just one trained and armed civilian on-site? Just one teacher, one professor or one employee.

The long and short of it: You are at a distinct disadvantage - in a legal sense - to a common criminal. You follow the laws; They don't.

Disasters and Social Unrest

As we are witnessing now in Haiti, when law-and-order break down on a large scale, you are on your own. Rampant looting, murder, rape and assault have become the norm.

And this doesn't just happen in third-world countries. The exact same thing happened in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and in Los Angeles in 1992.

Those LA riots lasted 6 days and resulted in 53 deaths plus thousands of injuries. Federal and California National Guard troops did not arrive in the second largest city in the United States until Day 3. "Copy Cat" riots spread to over a dozen US cities.

Just this past December, a group of 75 disgruntled students fire-bombed the house of the Chancellor of the University of California. In the middle of Berkeley!

Spontaneous violence can and does happen. To dismiss this out-of-hand is fool-hearty at best.

You, and no one else, are responsible for your personal safety. Not the police, not the National Guard, not your next door neighbor. You are responsible.

How you choose to meet that responsibility is your call.

Next Issue: Owning A Gun In CA - Part 2 - The Process
If you'd like to sign up for our weekly newsletter, click here.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Food Shortages?

A quick tip:  Start watching food prices and availability.

Why?  We all know the government "plays" with the economic statistics it produces.  It fully admits this.  For instance, official unemployment numbers don't count the unemployed that no longer receive unemployment benefits.  Those people are just as unemployed as the people getting payments, but they don't get included in the official numbers.

Ditto for inflation, "economic outlooks", housing starts, blah, blah, blah.  Pick an index.

The rosier numbers make people feel warm-and-fuzzy.  They allow people to go back to the latest "American Idol" or "Jersey Shore" episode, feeling safe and secure.

What they can't manipulate is actual food.  It is their Achilles Heel.  They can manipulate surplus grain storage numbers, future projections and expected yields.  But, if the farmer doesn't bring the grains, fruits, vegetables or livestock to market, the majority of Americans won't be eating.  Or they'll be eating less, for more money.

You can't eat rosy projections.

Many are beginning to get worried about the upcoming crop yields.  I don't know if the data are true or not.  Alarmists can manipulate data just as well as the government. What I do know is that if these predictions come true, we're in for a world of hurt.

I try and use my own eyes to determine what's going on.  In my area of Northern California, food prices have been inching up for the past few months.  It seems the one exception is pork.  That may be changing soon, as a number of hog processing plants have been tapped for closure this spring.

It won't matter how many Barry Bucks the administration tries to shove into the out-stretched hands of our ever-dependent population.  If the food's not there to buy, what good is the government script?

Accept The Challenge

Assume for a moment that the government projections are correct.  We have huge surplus' of food.  The supply chain from farm to processing plant to market is humming right along.

What would be the down-side of stocking up food?  Other than a minor increase in current food expenditures, there is no down-side.  It is food that will simply be rotated into your regular meal cycle.

But, if the projections are being fabricated, and you haven't prepared, you will either go hungry, or will find yourself in the soup and bread lines of the past.  Throw in a man-made or natural disaster like Katrina or Haiti, and you might have difficulty finding the soup and bread lines.

Why would you ever take such a risk?

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just Add Water: Mexican Rice and Beef

Before I get into the recipe, I want to make one note:  In most of these Just Add Water recipes that include meat, I use beef.  It's what I like.  But, you can substitute any freeze fried (and perhaps dehydrated) meat you like. has freeze dried beef and chicken available. has beef, chicken, ground beef and pork chops, although their prices are a bit more expensive.  I'm sure other online vendors sell similar products.

This is another of our favorites.  It makes a LOT of food, easily enough for two very hungry people to fill up.

Mexican Rice and Beef

3 C boiling water
2 C INSTANT rice, dry (not regular rice)
1 C Freeze dried beef
1/2 t salt
1/2 t Red chile flakes
1T Dehydrated onions
1T Chile powder
1T Cumin

As with the Mashed Potatoes and Beef recipe, add the boiling water directly into the vacuum seal bag.  Stir well, then seal it shut, and wait 5 minutes.

Viola! (click to enlarge)

Sorry, this is only about half of a batch - I got carried away eating it before I remembered to take a picture.  It is a bit on the hot (spicy) side, so if you have a sensitive palate, you can cut back on the red chile flakes to suit your tastes.

The stats (rice and beef only):

Calories - 860
Protein - 54g
Carbs - 176g
Fat - 8g

Accept The Challenge

If you were stuck out in the "boonies" with just your BOB or truck bag, a nice hot meal would most likely hit the spot.  And maybe keep you alive.

You can buy Mountain House meals - which are absolutely great - but they're expensive.  This rice dish cost under $4.50, including the vacuum seal bag.  You're looking at $7 - at least - for a similar 2-person Mountain House meal, plus you're getting lower portions of protein and carbs (calories are about the same).

And by making them yourself, you know exactly what is going into them, taking allergies and food dislikes out of the picture.
Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, January 18, 2010

NRA: Leave Us High and Dry. Again.

I wrote a post a couple weeks ago ("Time to push back") about the kid in Willows, California who was expelled for having a shotgun in the trunk of his vehicle - off campus.  The school says it's power to exert authority over its students is all encompassing - from the second they leave their door until they return home in the evening.

Excuse me, but that's bulls*#t.

A school board meeting was scheduled for last Friday, January 15th.  The NRA and the CRPA were providing legal support to the kid to fight this injustice.

I got all riled up, and in the post, I encouraged readers to "fight the good fight," make a donation and show up to the school board to show support for this kid.  I even mentioned that I was going to attend the hearing even though it is about 2 hours away.

I then noticed something.  Leading up to the NRA press release that inspired my post, I had received a number of emails from them about this kid.

Suddenly, once the hearing date was set and the NRA has a big-gun lawyer lined up, things go silent.  Last Wednesday, I wrote the NRA state organization (the CRPA) to ask if the hearing was still scheduled for Friday.  There was nothing on the CRPA site.  Nothing on the NRA site.  No response to the email.

So I didn't go.

On Saturday and Sunday, I did Google searches to see if anything had happened.  Nothing.  Finally, this morning, I found an article.  It seems that the hearing was rescheduled.
On Tuesday (1/19/10), the Glenn County Board of Education will hear an appeal in Tudesko's case, with local supporters and out-of-town activists expected to attend.
Even today, the CPRA website shows the hearing being scheduled for last Friday.  The link on the home page shows the same.  The NRA site only has a video interviewing the attorney handling the case.

How can they expect Second Amendment supporters to show their support when they give us bad information and don't keep us updated on new developments?

This case is incredibly important not only to Californians, but to all 2A supporters.  If this is allowed to stand, it will set a precedent for ALL schools to impose their will outside of school grounds.

I was willing to "burn" half of a day to drive there and back to show my support.  But I was left high and dry by these organizations.  AGAIN.

It is one of the reasons I've dropped my membership to the CRPA.  They talk a good game but they pull crap like this all the time.  They're too worried about the latest fund raiser.  They whip you up into a frenzy, then don't follow through.

The NRA had better address this - in a big way - or I may soon take all of my financial and personal support over to the GOA.  They, at least, seem to have a spine and the courtesy to follow through on their promises.

Accept The Challenge

I'm going to write both the CRPA and the NRA - again - this time to find out why they failed to let people know the information that they had distributed had changed, yet they failed to notify us of the change.

I request each of you do the same.

CRPA:  Click here.
NRA:  Click here.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Just Add Water: Potato and Beef

I've mentioned that I have this near-obsession with Just Add Water meals for my preps.  I just like the idea of being able to have a meal that only requires the addition of boiling water.  I keep a number of these meals in our BOBs/GHBs so that we can get a quick, tasty, nutritious meal if need be.

One of my absolute favorites is Mashed Potatoes and Beef.

I start with potato flakes (the Idahoan brand in this case).  The standard, off-the-box instructions are as follows (for 4, one-half cup servings):

1 1/3 C water
1/2 t salt
2 T butter
2/3 C milk
1 1/3 C potato flakes

I must say, I have not found a decent shelf-stable substitute for real butter.  For this receipe, it would need to be the powdered butter, and it is just horrible (IMO, of course).

To help offset this lost flavor component, and to add some more moisture to help rehydrate some of the other ingredients that follow, I increase the milk component from 2/3C to 1 C.

Here's the recipe.

2 1/3 C boiling water
1 1/3C potato flakes
1/3 C instant milk
1 C freeze-dried beef (more on that later)
1 T dehydrated chopped onion
1T dehydrated minced garlic
2 t dry parsley flakes
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

Vacuum seal it in an over-sized bag.

Why an oversized bag?  Because that's where you're going to be doing your cooking.  As per the instructions:

Be sure you cut the bag open just below the seal line.  Boil up your water and pour it into the bag (yep, they're boil-able).  Stir it up to make sure everything is well mixed, fold over the lip of the bag and secure it closed.

In this picture I have a large paper clip holding the bag closed.  In every BOB/GHB we include a dozen or so large paper clips.  They are flexible, yet sturdy pieces of wire that can be used for a number of things other than holding paper together, and they take up virtually no space.

After letting it steep for the 5 minutes, you have a fantastic meal.

It really tastes great.  My wife was out when I whipped up this batch.  When she got home, she smelled it and asked what I had cooked.  I told her.

As the faithful spouse of a prepper who uses his family as guinea pigs for his "experiments", she gave it a quick taste.  That was followed by a, "Hmmmm, pretty good.  Mind if I grab a bowl of this?"  Victory.

The nutritional stats (from the potatoes, beef and milk only):

620 calories
54g protein
112g carbs
8g fat

I consider this a meal for 2, but decide how many people will be eating it, and divide accordingly.

The freeze dried beef is a great product.  I got mine from  I've always had great success with them in the past.

The beef, though, is pretty expensive.  A can weighing 15oz will set you back about $44.  You get about 17 portions out of a can, with each dry portion being 1/2 cup.

The last time I bought a can, I mentioned to them that their labeling said you got 24 dry half-cup portions.  When I broke down the can into Just Add Water packs, I only got 17 portions.  They said they contacted the manufacturer and the label SHOULD say it makes 24 REHYDRATED portions.  Just understand that you'll only be getting 17 dry half-cup portions.

Accept The Challenge

Consider experimenting with meals that require a minimum of preparation.  You never know when an emergency will hit, or where you'll be when it happens.

Having easy-to-make, calorie-rich foods can make a miserable situation a bit more bearable.  I've got some more potato, rice, soup and pasta meals I share in later posts.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I'm wrapping up a tutorial on caching (probably a two-parter), and thought I'd give you a bit on building some retrieval skills.

What is Geocaching?  According to -
Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.
Obviously, if you are hiding a personal cache, you don't want the world to know where you've stashed your stuff!  When you are caching your own supplies, you will use a number of techniques for identifying and re-acquiring the location of your cache.  Using a GPS device is only one of them.  And because of the precision of GPS coordinates, maintaining the security of those coordinates is of paramount importance.

What geocaching will do, is allow you to practice those retrieval skills.  A side benefit I have found is it gets you out of your normal environment.  It takes you to places you may never have considered for hiding your own cache.  

It also gives you a "cover story" if you are out scouting locations.  If someone sees you snooping around and happens to call the police with a "suspicious person" report, having your GPS and the print-out of the geocache can get you off the hook.  If you read a lot of the comments posted on the site, you will see this happens on a fairly regular basis.

When I've done some of my geocaching runs, I also bring along a topography map (a 'topo').  I use the National Geographic, "Topo! Outdoor Recreation Mapping Software" program to print up topo maps for every area I'm scouting.  The version I have also includes trail maps, so it helps me in identifying areas that are both remote, but still accessible.

Accept The Challenge

As with most preparedness skills, practice is important.  I tell this to my firearms students at virtually every class - skills are perishable.  They are a, "use it or lose it" deal.

I try to search for geocaches that have instructions that include physical landmarks.  This is one of the very important tools needed for locating personal caches in lieu of GPS coordinates which I'll get into with the full caching post.

A good friend of mine uses geocaching as a way to break up long-distance driving boredom for his kids.  If they're driving to LA from the Bay Area, for instance.  They'll plot out a number of geocaches along the way so the kids don't go stir-crazy.

Go to the website and register for free.  You'll get a weekly newsletter, and it will also allow you to search their database for geocaches near you.  It's a lot of fun, and is a great skill-building exercise.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Alternatives For Common Items

I've mentioned that I'm reading the book, "One Second After". It is about the United States being hit with an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) which knocks out all electrical power in the country. The book focuses on the impact on the lives of the people that live in a small mountain town in South Carolina.

While the book is unlikely to win a Nobel Prize for Literature (although.... the Nobel committee does seem to have loosened their standards as of late...), it does a good job of describing the impact - in graphic detail - of what could very easily transpire if such an event were to occur.

One Second After gives good insight into how people adapt.  They ration food and other materials.  They provide for their own community defense.  They ruthlessly institute Martial Law.  They eat pets for food (better than seeing your kid die, no?).  In short, they Go Medieval.

I'm about 75% finished with the book, but what they don't discuss a lot is utilizing alternatives for every day items.  One of the few items they discuss is eating dandelion greens.  Little or nothing about medicine, soap, vitamins -  taking raw materials or things found in nature, and applying them to useful purposes.

In yesterday's post, I talked about using herbal remedies as an option.  Go look in your medicine cabinet and pick up a bottle of some Over The Counter medicine.  Read what it will cure or help fix.

For instance, I grabbed a bottle of Tums.  According to the label, it will relieve:  heartburn, sour stomach, acid indigestion and upset stomach associated with these symptoms.

Here are some "old school" cures (As always, don't be an idiot and go kill yourself trying something out.  Just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it is right, or will work.  Use your head and get educated.  Talk to a Doc first if need be.) -

Heartburn (seems like vinegar, apples and celery are the favorites)

Sour Stomach

Acid Indigestion

(FYI - those last two links have TONS of suggestions for natural remedies)

Do you take a vitamin C supplement?  Try a tea made from pine needles.  Need an aspirin?  Eat a pepper or some seaweed.  Burn yourself?  It's not just aloe vera any more.  Need some soap?  Lather up with this.  A bit bummed out?  Try some of these alternatives to drugs. 

More on the cause and likelihood of losing electrical power on a wide scale:  This type of "pulse" event does not need to be man-made.  Solar flares have the ability to do very similar damage.

Far fetched?  It has already happened.  In 1989!
Rarely has the power of a solar flare been more dramatically displayed than in early March 1989. Over a period of ten days, a series of violent flares unleashed a combined shower of radiation, energized particles, and magnetism that knocked out electricity all across the province of Quebec, rendered normal radio frequencies unusable, and draped the night skies of the Northern Hemisphere with a crimson aurora borealis that could be seen as far south as Key West, Florida.

On March 13, 1989, for example, a radio amateur in Rhode Island was able to contact a second operator in England using the VHF band of 50 megahertz.

As the flares' extreme-ultraviolet flux heated and expanded Earth's upper atmosphere, the increased atmospheric drag reduced the orbital energy of hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit. This knocked the spacecraft into lower and faster orbits, causing ground controllers to temporarily lose contact with them. Meanwhile, many of the 7,000 orbiting objecs that are tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network were lost from view.
BTW, the Solar Cycle is every 22 years.  1989 + 22 = 2011.

Accept The Challenge

In one section of the book, the main character laments how short-sighted government and individuals have become.  In particular, he was upset how they have stopped with the prepare-for-uncertainty Civil Defense classes in schools.

Just the opposite has happened.  Aside from encouraging citizens to have a 72-hour emergency supply (better than nothing, I guess), we are actually encouraging people to become dependent upon others.

Want to go mountain climbing?  Go ahead!  If you get stuck, we'll send someone out to save your life. 

Decide to not evacuate when a hurricane is coming?  No worries!  FEMA will swoop down to rescue you.

We've taken the risk out of the risk/reward calculation.  Actually, we've transferred it to the whole of society.  But what happens when society isn't there to bail your butt out?

Take the time to learn about and apply alternatives to our every day conveniences.  Especially about items that are life-sustaining - foods, vitamins, minerals, medicines.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Preps: No Medical Services

As we've stated before, in our view, Emergency Preparedness needs to focus more on limiting negative impacts to disasters than on preparing for specific events (earthquake, hurricane, etc.).  We discussed that philosophy and those Twelve Impacts in an earlier post.  You can see all of the items in the series to this point by clicking the 12 Impacts label category.

We're going to drill down into one of the twelve impacts:  No Access to Professional Medical Services. 

It is pretty amazing how dependent we've become on EMTs, Paramedics, Nurses and Doctors.  More disturbing, is how dependent we've become on prescription medications.  Instead of fixing the cause of the problem, we've been trained to take a pill, and the problem magically goes away.

What are some of the possible impacts if all of this "Medical Safety Net" goes away or is so overburdened that it can't respond to all people needing assistance?
  • Mass deaths - plagues or pandemics can result in massive numbers of death - May spawn quarantines or other restrictions for those infected or possibly infected.  Similar treatment can be expected for biological and radiological exposures.
  • Loss of emergency medical services –  For the treatments ranging from broken bones to gun shot wounds to shock or exposure, may not be available, resulting in permanent injury or disfiguration, or death.
  • Loss of health maintenance - Services such as dialysis, physical therapy, mental health therapy – may be curtailed or eliminated.
  • Unavailable medicines – Not having access to prescription medicines and Over The Counter treatments can have results ranging from mild discomfort to death.

Consider medications.  What prescription medications do you or a family member take every single day?  Blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes?  What about "mental health" medicines for anxiety or other similar ailments?

Anyone taking pain medications for rheumatoid arthritis, back pains or other injuries?  It seems like half the people I know have a puffer for asthma or some other lung ailment.

What will you do if you have an infection and can't get penicillin or other antibiotics?

We fairly feast on Over The Counter (OTC) medications.  Tylenol, ibuprofen, aspirin, cough syrup, Pepto, Tums, Preparation H, Midol, contact lens solution, Ben-gay, Benadryl.  The list is endless.

What would you do if these were suddenly unavailable?

If you broke a bone, or were knocked unconscious and bleeding from the head, would anyone in your group know what to do other than call 911?  An unattended absessed tooth, or infected cut on your body can kill you in a matter of days.  Would YOU know what to do?

Think about how many lives are dependent upon ongoing medical services.  Chemo and radiation for cancer patients.  Kidney dialysis.  Maintaining insulin pumps and Pacemakers.

Accept The Challenge

TEOTWAWKI does not have to happen for medical services to be unavailable.  Emergencies can happen at a soccer field, while camping or while driving cross-country.  You may be forced to be the, "Medic On Call".

Build a home and portable medical kit.  In addition to the usual assortment of bandages, wraps and salves, include splints, temporary dental fillings, pain relievers, antibiotic creams and at least 2 of every OTC medication you currently have in your medicine cabinet.

Educate yourself on herbal medicines and remedies.  There are an amazing number of "old school" balms, tinctures and salves that can be prepared with materials found in nature.

If you or someone in your family is dependent upon prescription medications, investigate natural alternatives NOW, while you have the opportunity to educate yourself.  Talk to your doctor NOW to see if any of these alternatives might be viable in an emergency.  While you're there, ask about getting a 60 or 90 day supply of your current meds for emergencies.  It can't hurt to ask.

Get off the medication dependency by making a Lifestyle change NOW.  Many types of cholesterol medication, for instance, are only needed because people won't change what or how they eat.  Don't be forced into going "cold turkey".

And at the very least, take a basic Red Cross first aid course.  Learn what you can do to help keep someone alive, or how to minimize their trauma until help can arrive.

Here's a beta version of a PSA we're putting together on preps to help motivate you -

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fat, Dumb and Happy

It has been a busy couple of three days, so I'm letting my brain have some fun

I happen to be a useless information storehouse.  I love the little trivia tidbits that come along.  I really should go on Jeopardy - but it would be my luck that all of the topics would be on British Royalty or Crocheting Tools and Techniques.  I'd be toast.

They just recently published the latest issue of the Statistical Abstract of The United States.  I first ran into this when I was in college, and had a Library Sciences class to fill in one of the weird graduation requirements.  I found the book, and was mezmerized - I spent hours just reading and absorbing mostly useless, pointless, government-gathered statistics.

From the latest issue:

Fat -
On the other hand, low food prices may contribute to Americans' obesity. In 2006, about 34 percent of U.S. adults were judged obese, triple France's rate (10.5 percent) and four times that of Switzerland (7.7 percent).

Dumb -
In 2007, nearly two-fifths of all U.S. births were to unmarried women, double the share in 1980. Since 1970, the student-teacher ratio in schools has declined dramatically, from 22 to 1 to 15 to 1 in 2007, with little effect on test results.

and Happy -
Being optimistic, Americans commit suicide at fairly low rates, 10.2 for every 100,000 people in 2004, less than the 11.9 average for all industrial countries or Japan's 20.3 and France's 15.1.
Hmm.  Those numbers were taken before the financial melt-down.  Hell, that was right in the middle of the, "I own a house and don't have any income," phase our country went through.  I'm guessing they may have ticked up a bit since then.

If you want to look at the whole book(?), go here and you can search by topic.  Pretty cool.

Oh, one word of warning:  Stay away from the federal government spending pages.  Brain.  Go.  Boom.  I warned ya.

OK, just  a little taste. (PDF)

In 1990, our federal government spent a total of $1.25 Trillion of our dollars.  In 2009, the number is $3.9978 Trillion (let's call it $4 Trillion, OK?).  Yeah, our federal government's spending has gone up over 3-fold in 19 short years.

Here's the real, "make you crazy" number - The "Payments For Individual" - Social Security payments and Grants to states (gotta pass the pork, dontcha know?) have gone from $585 Billion to $2.09 Trillion.

Class, can I see a show of hands from anyone who can say, "Income Redistribution"?

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Physical Stamina

It has been a hectic couple of days, and will continue through this weekend.  I'm going to "cheat" and post the latest installment from our weekly Personal Safety Newsletter.

Physical Stamina For Self-Defense

Note:  Before starting any exercise routine, be sure you're physically able to perform the work-out.  If you have any doubts whatsoever, first check with your doctor.

It's the new year, and I'm sure the last thing you need to hear is one more person getting on your back about staying fit.  Maybe losing a couple of pounds.  Perhaps giving up smoking.

Sorry, I'm going to do it anyways!

On our website, at the very top of our home page, we have a link to a page called, Unsure you need training?  Give it a click and take a look.

The page is about taking personal responsibility for your safety, but in it, I ask readers to take a little test.  A physical fitness test.

Here's something I want you to do as long as you don't have some sort of medical condition that prevents it.

Get a kitchen timer, and set it to 4 minutes.  Push the button and do a non-stop exercise that uses your upper body - push ups, pull ups, sit ups.  Do them as fast as you can for the entire 4 minutes.  Non-stop, not slowing even for a moment.

The purpose of the test is to demonstrate - best case - how long it can take for a 911 Emergency call to get a response.

But it will also demonstrate how difficult it can be to do a strenuous physical activity - such as defending yourself - for a relatively short period of time.

It all boils down to two items:  Strength and Cardio.  A very good exercise that can help with both items with the same exercise are burpies.

They involve a squat-push up-jump routine.  Here's a quick YouTube video demonstrating the technique.

You are building strength in your upper body, legs and torso.  The jump also incorporates a type of exercise called plyometrics - generally speaking, these are jumping exercises that really get your heart rate going!  A side-benefit is increased flexibility, as you are using your entire body in this exercise.

If you're a bit out of shape, start slowly and build up your repetitions. 

Doing light workouts with dumb-bells also helps to keep arms and shoulders - the primary muscles you'll use in a self-defense situation - in "fighting shape".  The same goes for good old push-ups all by themselves.

These exercises can be done on your family room floor - no need to join a gym.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Prepping Morality

I recently read an outstanding post over at Viking Preparedness called, What will we do about the refugees?  It is very thought-provoking, to say the least.

Many of us who are active in preps have put away, "a little extra" to help out family, friends and neighbors who do not prepare for any type of emergency.  We have visions of handing out small "care packages" to these folks.  I, personally, have a good portion of my rice, wheat, beans and corn in 2 pound vacuum packs for this very reason (plus to make them more easily bartered).

But what happens if it gets REALLY ugly.  What if there is a total societal breakdown where food and water are quite literally more valuable than gold?
Others have prepared "refugee meals" to hand out to the miserable masses that stream past their retreat - "Here, take this and move on". Some have set MREs aside for this purpose. One cool idea I saw was a family who made up about 100 meals consisting of a 2 liter bottle of water and a small metal paint can full of rice and dried beans. On top of the product but under the lid was a pack of matches. The idea was for folks to take this food kit and move out to a place where they would have to build a fire and cook – so they wouldn’t hang around.

What happens if they DON'T move on? What if they set up camp across the road (or just down the road out of sight) and you become a soup kitchen. What happens when there is no more "soup" and you now have a mass of humanity right across the street? Hungry humanity.
The post has a link to his forum where the conversation is continued.  I highly recommend reading both the article and the forum posts.  They REALLY make you think.

Along these lines, I hope to be speaking with the pastor of my wife's church early next week to discuss putting on classes on personal emergency preps for the members.  I want to take this template and duplicate it at all of the churches in our area.  It's a chance to do well while doing good.

One of the things the post above discussed was working with the churches NOW to get them in a position of acting as food distribution centers in the event of an emergency.  If things were to get truly ugly, the normal disaster groups - FEMA and the Red Cross - would very likely be overwhelmed.

I am now working on a emergency prep model for church and civic groups.  Most have significant storage space for food, water and equipment, as well as having kitchens and the facilities to serve many people in an orderly fashion.

UPDATE:  More food for thought - Take a look at this YouTube video of a Twilight Zone episode called, The Shelter.  

Accept The Challenge

What are your, "Help The Hungry" plans during a disaster?  Sadly, if things do get ugly, the chances of neighbor turning against neighbor is quite high.  If you had no food or water, and sick and hungry children, you'd do ANYTHING to get them fed and cared for.

Your neighbors are no different.

I obviously think it is prudent to do emergency preps.  I think it is also prudent to keep your plans to yourself.  You can make your charity plans without putting up a billboard stating, "FOOD HERE!"

In an emergency, you will be painted as a "hoarder" and the powers that be will make the "moral" decision to take your preps and share them with the masses. BTW, a "hoarder" is someone who accumulates scarce commodities during a time of emergency.  You're doing it now, during times of plenty.

Try explaining that to the mob that is forming outside your home.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Preps: No Public Utilities

As we've stated before, in our view, Emergency Preparedness needs to focus more on limiting negative impacts to disasters than on preparing for specific events (earthquake, hurricane, etc.).  We discussed that philosophy and those Twelve Impacts in an earlier post.  You can see all of the items in the series up to this point by clicking the 12 Impacts label category.

We're going to drill down into one of the twelve impacts:  No Public Utilities.  In particular, no sanitation services, no natural gas, and no electrical services.

So many people are unprepared to cope with public utility service disruptions of a few hours.  We have become conditioned to flip a switch, turn a dial or push a handle, and things "just work".

Consider the impact if those services were to be disrupted for days, months or even years.  In one such scenario currently included in a Congressional report, 100 million people could die each year from the loss of electrical power (more about that below).


Your garbage is picked up once a week.  When you go to the bathroom, your waste magically disappears.  If a dog, cat, deer or other animal is found dead on the road, someone comes by and makes it go away.

What happens if those services go away?

How will you deal with the growing pile of garbage produced by your home?  How will you dispose of the highly-infectious waste we humans (and our pets) generate every day?

At the very least, everyone should know how and where to bury their waste.  The proper depth, the proper distance and direction from fresh water supplies, and the best ways to keep flying and crawling insects from spreading disease.

Every preparedness plan (for the home, while traveling and at a retreat) should include one very simple, inexpensive and widely available item:  Plastic trash bags.  They act as a barrier between you and the waste, or between your consumables (food and water) and insects that carry infections.

Understanding how to treat water for consumption (filters and chemicals) is critically important as well.  Using chlorine bleach (WARNING:  can be hazardous) to make water potable (4-8 drops per quart) or as a disinfectant (1/4 cup added to a gallon of water) can literally be lifesavers.

No Natural Gas

This would include natural gas plumbed directly into homes from the utility, as well as onsite propane tanks that are filled by outside companies.

In our homes, gas is used to produce a fire.  That flame heats our water, cooks our food and warms our homes.

Without your gas-fired hot water heater, how will you clean your dishes, wash your clothes or take a shower?  Without your gas-fired heater, how will you keep your home warm?  Without your gas-fired stove and oven, how will you prepare food, or make water potable by boiling it?

Learn how to "make fire" with just the basics - wood, flame and air.  A camp fire can produce flame to cook and boil water, and radiate heat for warmth.

There are numerous high-quality camp stoves that are available to produce the heat necessary for treating water and preparing food.  Be sure you practice - on a regular basis - with these stoves to ensure you know how they function when you need to use them.

WARNING:  Be sure you understand the restrictions for using camp stoves.  Many cannot be used indoors because of the carbon monoxide that is released as a result of incomplete combustion.  Even the highly-efficient alcohol stoves should only be used in well-ventilated areas.

Some kerosene space heaters are designed for indoor use, including "non-vented" (to the outdoors) varieties.  Use these with extreme caution.  Remember:  Very high temperatures/open flame and flammable liquids inside your home can end up badly.  Get educated and practice before you need your heater.

No Electricity

While people are most used to losing their electrical power on a fairly regular, short-term basis (storms, etc.), a long-term power outage would be devastating to most people.

Electrical equipment touches virtually every aspect of our lives - from cooking food and heating water, to providing heat to our homes, to powering our electronic gadgets such as TVs and computers.

Additionally, many pieces of equipment used in life-saving/sustaining applications are all electrical.  Refrigerators, freezers, home dialysis machines and security alarms/systems are only a few of these items.

Along these lines, there is a threat to our national electrical grid that has (finally) been gaining attention as of late:  EMP or Electro-Magnetic Pulses.  These are pulses of energy that are produced by nuclear bombs which are detonated high in our atmosphere.

The reason EMPs are getting some attention is that the list of potential entities that could deploy them is both growing, and becoming less stable.  Countries such as North Korea and Iran are both believed to now be nuclear-capable, and both are about as unstable as any country could be.

These EMPs are devastating in their impact.  Virtually every electronic device that is either exposed to the pulse, or which is "plugged in" at the time, is rendered useless.  Forever.

This includes everyday items that contain electronics, such as cars, trucks, airplanes and trains.  We would be "grounded" as a nation.

If your back-up plans include using generators that use electronics to produce power, or if your kerosene space heater uses an electronic ignition, you may be in trouble.

As the LA Daily News noted in December -
Experts are also concerned about nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea and, to a lesser extent, China and Russia. The president of Iran has threatened to wipe Israel off the map and experts believe North Korea has missiles that can hit the West Coast.

Experts are especially concerned about the possibility that Iran one day could launch ship-based nuclear missiles, said Brian Kennedy, president of The Claremont Institute's Ballistic Missile Defense Project.

"The West Coast of the U.S. has limited missile defense against a North Korean missile," Kennedy said. "And, unfortunately, we're almost completely vulnerable to a ship-launched ballistic missile attack."

Kennedy is also concerned a ship-launched nuclear missile detonated at a high altitude would create an electromagnetic pulse, possibly destroying electronic equipment and knocking out the nation's power grid - leaving the country with little or no communications and no ability to provide food and water to potentially hundreds of millions of people.

Congressional reports suggest such an attack could result in more than 100 million deaths in a year, said Sharon Packer, executive director of the American Civil Defense Association.
What would be the result if everyone everywhere was without electrical power, all at the same time?  It wouldn't be pretty, to say the least.  For a fictional "peek" into what this might be like, I highly suggest reading, "One Second After".  Quite sobering.

Accept The Challenge

While the chances of a long-term disruption in any of our utilities is remote, the impact of such a disruption could be devastating.  As with most emergency plans, you should follow the philosophy of PACE - Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency:  Have multiple solutions to the same problem.

At least one of your solutions should be, "old school" - a solution that does not require modern technology to be successful.  Learn how to dispose of human waste without the use of plumbing or chemicals.  Learn how to build a fire without the use of matches, lighters or gas canisters.

Practice these skills now, while you have the opportunity to make mistakes without putting lives in danger.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Buying 90 Percent Silver Coins

Financial preparedness can be as important as food, water and housing preparedness.  Many people have started investing in precious metals as a hedge against future inflation.  They believe that with our Federal government's current and future spending plans, the US dollar is going to get eaten alive, and they see precious metals as a hedge against those government policies.

Personally, I share those beliefs.

Proviso:  Any investment or hedge involves risk.  Do your research and investigate the positives and negatives of any investment or hedge before spending your hard-earned money.

There are many ways to invest in precious metals.  One way is to buy coins.  There are two broad categories of coins - numismatic and bullion.  Numismatic coins are valued primarily for their rarity and condition.  Bullion is based upon its precious metal content.

This tutorial will focus on bullion coins.  My personal belief is that you add an (unacceptable to me) element of risk when buying numismatic coins:  Some entity makes an opinion as to the value of the coin.

Bullion coin values are based upon spot metal prices.  Spot prices can and do fluctuate wildly.  But, in my opinion, you have more ability to anticipate the direction of spot metal prices than you do in evaluating the rarity and condition of a coin.

Pure Silver Coins

These are generally found in one ounce denominations.  You can find them minted by various world governments, and by private mints.  While both types of coins contain the same amount of silver, those minted by governments - especially the US government - carry a premium over spot metal prices.

Why?  You know for sure that the coin contains 99.9% silver.  A coin produced by a private mine most likely contains 99.9% pure silver.

Personally, I purchase both types of bullion coins, but I verify the weight of the non-US coins.  Every single one of them.

If you are dealing with a coin shop, expect to be able to sell your bullion coins for slightly less than spot prices, and expect to pay slightly more that spot when buying them.  The dealer is in business to make money, after all!

You can easily get spot prices by going here:

They also have spot prices for gold, platinum and other precious metals.

90% Silver Coins

90% silver coins are bought and sold in a slightly different manner, but the basis is still the same - spot prices.

When you buy these coins - US dimes, quarters and half dollars minted in 1964 and earlier - you base your buy and sell prices on Face Value.  This is a fairly straightforward calculation (albeit a little complicated) based upon the amount of silver contained in $1 Face Value of these coins.

Some important information:  One (troy) ounce of precious metal weighs (roughly) 31 grams.  One (avoirdupois) ounce of, say, bread (if you bought it by the ounce) weighs (roughly) 28 grams.  So, for our calculations, we're using troy ounces.  Oh, and a gram is a gram is a gram - no precious metal designation is used.

One dollar face value of 1964 and older US coins weighs 25 grams.  A dime weighs 2.5 grams, a quarter weighs 6.25 grams and a half-dollar weighs 12.5 grams.  It is 90% silver and 10% copper.  You determine value on the silver alone - nothing on the copper.

Remember 0.715  - That is the conversion factor you need to use to determine the spot price of silver in a 90% silver coin.  (Note:  When the coins were originally minted, each dollar face contained 0.723 of an ounce.  The industry has agreed upon the 0.715 factor to account for average loss due to wear from circulation.).

If the spot price of silver is $17, you multiply that by the 0.715 to get a value of $12.16 (rounded) per $1 of Face Value.  In general, you can expect to pay a bit more than the spot price when buying, and receive a bit less than spot when selling.  The merchant needs a profit margin to stay in business!

Count Your Pennies

As I write at this very moment, the spot price of silver is $16.85 per ounce.  When I run it through the formula, that comes out to $12.05 Face.

I've checked a website that sells 90% silver online (  They are selling for $12.68 per $1 face and will buy from you for $11.41 per $1 face.  You'll generally get a better deal if you buy in blocks of $100 Face or more.  Still, that's a pretty steep premium (or discount if you're selling).

If you buy and sell with private parties, you can generally come out closer to spot.

Accept The Challenge

Buying precious metals can be a very good way to hedge against inflation.  Generally speaking, as the dollar weakens, precious metals get stronger (YMMV!).

If you do decide to "take the plunge", be sure you fully understand the dynamics that are at play.  You should check the spot price immediately before you make your purchase so you know precicely what kind of premium or discount is involved.

If you're buying online - at either a coin shop or via ebay, be sure you calculate the cost of shipping into your figures.  Also, when buying on ebay (which I personally have done for years), be sure to only use sellers with high ratings (nothing less than 95% positive, IMO) and who accept PayPal.  By using PayPal, if the transaction does go sour, you have a buyer's protection included (most of the time - check with each and every posting).

DON'T get into bidding wars.  Find some coins you want, do your math, and make your maximum bid.  If you get out-bid, let it go, and find another auction.

Start small so you can get a feel for what is involved.  Keep good records of your purchases and sales so that you are able to see their current value as spot prices move about.

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Jib Jab 2009 Review

Some pretty clever folks out there at Jib Jab.  A bit risque in a couple of parts...

Hope everyone had a safe New Years Eve.

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.