Table of Contents
Title Page
Copyright Page
Major Disasters
The Stages of Collapse
Survive, Thrive, and Discover a More Meaningful Life
So, What are Your Options?
Choosing to Plan Over Panic
CHAPTER 1 - The Most Likely Disasters You ’ll Face
Two Ordinary Calamities
Two Crises That Will Rock Your World
CHAPTER 2 - The Quick and the Dead—and the Survivors
Hurricane Katrina—Then Everything Went to Hell
Argentina—The Crashed Society
We Are All One Bad Turn Away from a Crisis
CHAPTER 3 - Personal Finance
A Big-Picture Look at the U.S. Economy—We’ re So Screwed
Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Hindenburg
How Bad Could It Get? Pretty Bad!
New Careers for a Brave New World
CHAPTER 4 - Gold, Hard Assets, and Alternative Currencies
The Eternal Store of Value
What Can Drive Gold Lower in the Short Term?
Five Forces That Will Push Gold Prices Higher
Buying Gold—Let’s Get Physical
Non-Physical Ways to Own Gold
Gold Investing—Keep It Simple
What to Use as Money If the Dollar Loses Its Value
Should You Put Your Money in Foreign Currencies?
CHAPTER 5 - Investing for the Five Emergencies
The Five Emergencies
Three Potential Profit Bonanzas
Three Levels of Risk and Reward
Six Things Every Investor Must Know About the Stock Market
Should You Buy Funds or Individual Stocks?
Divide and Conquer with Asset Allocation
CHAPTER 6 - Water
How Much Water Do I Need?
How Long Can Water Be Stored Before It Is Replaced?
CHAPTER 7 - Food Storage for Couch Potatoes
How to Begin
Bulk Storage
One More Bucket Idea
Canned Goods
Dehydrated Foods
Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
MREs—Meals, Ready-to-Eat
Six Mistakes People Make in Food Storage
Other Cool Tools You Can Use
The Joy of Alternative Cooking—Cooking Without Electricity
CHAPTER 8 - Smart Shopping—How to Plan Ahead for Next Week’s Meals (and Save ...
Making the Change from Impulse Shopper to Smart Shopper
The Drugstore Game—How to Make Drugstores Pay You
Fake It Until You Make It
Buying Food Online
CHAPTER 9 - Gardening
A Lot of Food in a Small Space
Why You Should Grow Heirloom Seed Plants
How Global Warming Will Affect Your Garden
A Useful List of Gardening Do’s
CHAPTER 10 - Health, Medicine, and Disease
Medical Professionals Are Worried About Something More Serious
Seven Medical Tips for Smart Suburban Survivalists
Survival Medical Kit
Herb Garden—Medicinal Plants You Can Grow Yourself
Pandemics and Epidemics
In a Real Epidemic, America’s Health-Care System Will Be Overwhelmed
How to Protect Yourself and Your Family
What If Friends or Relatives Show Up at Your Door When a Plague Is Raging?
CHAPTER 11 - Your House, Home Security, and Power
Free Yourself from Thinking of Your Home as an Investment
How Long Could Home Prices Stay Depressed?
Intruder Alert! Protecting Your Home
Do You Need a Gun?
Start or Join a Neighborhood Watch
The Next Step—A Water Supply
Now, on to Sanitation
Electricity: The Real Refuge
Using the Sun to Stay Warm
Cut Home Energy Costs Before Crisis Strikes
Tools You Should Have (or Have Access to)
CHAPTER 12 - Education and Entertainment
Rethinking Home Entertainment
More Education for Kids
Trial Run for the End of the World Can Be Your Entertainment Now
Building a Survival Library
Get Your Downloads Before the Internet Goes Dark
CHAPTER 13 - Transportation
How Vulnerable Are You?
Five Ways to Ease Your Dependence on Oil
Plan on Alternate Transportation
Storing Gasoline
Getting Around without Gasoline
Getting Around on the Standard Bicycle
CHAPTER 14 - The Final Option—Evacuate
Pack Like a (Smart) Refugee
Now that You’ re Packed, Should You Leave?
How to Get Out When the Gettin’s Good—or Bad!
Where to Go When You Bug Out
Crossing the Border
What If You’ re the One Taking in Refugees?
What to Tell Your Kids
The Final Word
About the Author
From the Author


To my wife, Cindy,
my partner in all things.
And to my children, who,
along with other children,
are the last and best hope of this world.

For many years, the author of this amazing book has been helping show investors how to protect themselves from financial harm and profit from opportunities around the world.
Along the way, he has traveled to far-flung locales from Guanajuato, Mexico, to Labrador, Canada. And he has kept us all informed and entertained with some of the wittiest research I ’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.
In this book, Sean Brodrick takes several giant steps further, giving proactive prescriptions for steps you can take to make your life richer and safer. Only this time he’s sticking a lot closer to home, by helping you prepare for threats that, in not-so-unlikely worst-case scenarios, could literally strike right in our own backyard.
If you read my book, The Ultimate Depression Survival Guide, you learned how to survive and thrive financially. Here, Sean will show you how to survive physically!
We all pray and hope that the scariest of future events will never come to pass. And even in a depression, which could return with a vengeance in years ahead, I remain optimistic that most will not come true! But suppose I’m wrong. Or suppose the forecasts of some of the most reasoned scientists—regarding an influenza pandemic or the impacts of global warming—come true sooner than most of us dream possible.
Then what? Sean will prepare you, and he’ll do so without ever having to pack up and head for the hills. He’s written each chapter like a stand-alone mini-book on each major challenge you face. Together, they form a complete guide for protecting yourself in even the wildest of crazy times.
You’ll not only see more clearly the swords of Damocles hanging over our heads, but you’ll also learn through the real-life stories of people who learned to cope under similar circumstances.
Worried about the real potential for a swine flu disaster and the resulting drug shortages? This book tells you how to prepare ahead of time and how to use drug alternatives in a pinch.
What would you do if gasoline became unavailable? Sean has multiple answers for you.
If a major disaster hit your neighborhood right now, would you have an emergency bag packed and ready to go? After you read this book, I guarantee you will! All without costing a small fortune or going to extremes!
Sean’s book opened my eyes to a whole range of threats (and solutions!) that I had never before considered. I am certain he will do the same for you as well.
As Sean shows us, the solution is not getting rid of our creature comforts or living in caves. It’s to take simple, logical, incremental steps towards self-sufficiency and better preparedness. This book tells you what to do, and how to do it. It’s intelligent, engaging, and entertaining. Read it now and keep it by your side as a handy reference for years to come.
Martin D. Weiss, PhD
President, Weiss Research, Inc.
Author of the New York Times bestseller,
The Ultimate Depression Survival Guide
(published by John Wiley & Sons)

Thanks to Martin Weiss, for teaching me about keeping money safe, to Larry Edelson, for teaching me about gold, and to Eric Drawdy, for teaching me about guns. Also, to everyone who agreed to be interviewed for this book—thanks for being so kind with your time. Finally, thanks to caffeine, without which this book would not have been possible, and to wine, for celebrating when the book was finished!

The shadow of what comes next looms over the world like a dark cloud of misery brought about by the madness of men.
—Jesse at Le Cafe American
Do you have a pervasive sense of anxiety, as if our modern world is on thin ice? Do you have an uneasy feeling that Wall Street seems to be collapsing under the weight of bad debts and bad decisions—and dragging your job along with it? Or, maybe you feel our society is coming apart at the seams, and that our civilization could actually break down and collapse.
You are not alone. A lot of people are worried. In fact, there is a growing movement of people who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI).
Serious survivalists use another acronym, WTSHTF, or when the s**t hits the fan, to reference the inevitable onslaught of disastrous events that is sure to befall our beloved nation in the near to semi-near future. Some people think after TSHTF, our civilized, cultivated selves will rapidly devolve to radioactive cannibals fighting each other over scraps of meat in the burned-out husks of our cities. These hard-core survivalists move to remote farms where they raise livestock, collect guns and ammo, and prepare for a global oil crisis/financial meltdown/zombie invasion/the end of the world (as we know it).
I want to be prepared, too. However, I ’m comfortably ensconced in a twenty-first century lifestyle, and I don’t want to give it up.
That said, I know the odds are increasing that my family and I will experience a disaster that will change our lifestyle and maybe even grind the gears of civilization. I’m not just talking about individual house fires or floods that affect neighborhoods. I’m talking about changes on a societal and national level—an economic crash, an energy crisis, terrorism, or even a plague.
A disaster could be any of a number of things, manmade or natural. I believe that yes, the U.S. empire is in decline, and may be on the brink of a catastrophic change. Now, I don’t think it will happen all at once. I also don’t think our civilization will go down without a fight. Even in the worst-case scenario, I expect there will probably be an initial panic, followed by an attempt at recovery and return to normalcy, and then a bumpy downward spiral. Rome didn ’t vanish overnight, and neither will today’s Western world.
So what can you do if you want to maintain your modern lifestyle and you want to be a master of disaster?
The fact is, we are living in scary times, and changes are happening more rapidly than anyone would have imagined even six months ago.
Taking this into consideration, there are realistic goals you can set to prepare for dire situations. A few years ago, people who talked about these preparations might have been thought of as the wacky ones with foil hats; now, ordinary people are concerned. The ability to survive on your own for at least a few days after a storm blows through seems elementary, yet even in South Florida, where I live—an area that should be used to hurricanes by now—I’ve seen people out looking for ice and gallon jugs of water within hours after a storm has passed.
A little self- reliance and independence goes a long way. The scouts always say to be prepared—the problem is, we’ve had a generation or two that have outsourced nearly every single facet of their lives.
But you don’t have to live that way—not anymore. This book you’re now holding in your hands can be your checklist on how to start preparing and your roadmap to peace of mind when a crisis hits. And I’m not talking just storms and power outages—I mean the kind of world-changing crises that keep us awake for more than a night or two.
You can survive a world-threatening disaster, and live a healthier lifestyle and save your money in the here and now. Here’s the best part—you don’t have to move to a goat farm in the wilderness to do it.a
And I know it can be done, because my family and I have done much of it already. What we haven’t done, friends and trusted sources have done. Preparing and protecting your family is possible. You can even prosper at the same time. It ’s up to you.
Reading this book will prepare you for the worst. So when the s**t hits the fan, you can not only survive but thrive. While you should never deceive yourself about the difficulties you face, neither should you allow yourself to become the prisoner of your own fears.
Being prepared for the bad times means a lot of things: reducing debt, living within your means, storing food, buying survival gear, and more.
This book is for people who are going to prepare as much as possible, but, for reasons of job, family, or social choice, aren’t going to move to a safe house in a remote, undisclosed location (if you do, say hello to Dick Cheney for me).
The fact is, you can wait a long time for the world to end. You can also buy a ton of specialized gear that you won’t use unless the world completely falls apart. Or, you could …
• Just buy the basics you’re going to need anyway.
• Change your food shopping habits, building a necessary stockpile of food and saving money in the process.
• Start a garden and load up your table with the healthiest, freshest food you’ve ever eaten.
• Develop skills that will make you a more self-reliant, well-rounded, and interesting person.
• Develop plans for any kind of emergency that will put you three steps ahead of the general population—also known as sheeple—in a panic.
• Position yourself financially to coast through tough economic times and come out on top.
Some financial outlay is called for in this book. But unlike many stocks and bonds pushed by Wall Street, the things I recommend you buy won’t see their value go to zero. Indeed, if history is any guide, some will greatly increase in value over time. And some could save your life.
Throughout the book, I’ll explain three things:
1. The basics in each area of preparation
2. What my family has done, and what we’ve learned in the process
3. Where you can go to get more information on each of these topics

Major Disasters

Bad things are going to happen. You know it. You ’ve probably been through temporary situations—blizzards, power grid down for days, water shortages—and are aware of looming worsening situations around us, both potential manmade calamities and natural disasters. Economically, our country slides into recessions now and again. The problem is, this time around, things seem to be much worse than average.
Economic Depressions: The recession that started at the end of 2007 is the worst since World War II, and as bad as the Great Depression by some metrics. Car sales as measured by fleet turnover hit an all-time low in 2008. The number of Americans receiving food stamps hit a record. Stock market crash, bank failures, soaring unemployment—all compounded by worries that our economy is on a slippery slope.
Natural Disasters: Whether it’s fires raging in Southern California, tornadoes touching down across the Midwest, crippling ice storms in New England, or hurricanes blowing through the Southeast, natural disasters cause temporary cessation of services and life as you know it. And they seem to be becoming more frequent, thanks to global warming.
Oil Crisis: Peak oil—when oil production peaks around the world, which is a prelude to much higher prices—is rushing at us like a runaway train. And we can have energy spikes and shortages long before peak oil really bites. Thanks to our just-in-time delivery system, a fuel shortage will very quickly lead to a food shortage.
Food Crisis: In recent years, the populations of the world’s developing countries have been growing about 7% a year, a rapid rate by historical standards. This means that hundreds of millions more people are getting access to the basics of life, and many people—in China, India, and other emerging countries—are eating more food than they used to. That jump in demand is helping to drive up the prices of agricultural commodities and straining global food stockpiles. The 2007 to 2008 harvest-to-harvest year was the third in a row in which the world consumed more grain than it produced.1 Soon, we could be just one bad harvest away from a global food crisis.
Climate Change: The dramatic changes in our climate are real and are altering our world in unimaginable ways. Global warming has made storms stronger, hurt harvests, and could cause desertification across large swaths of the United States by making water shortages so severe that some cities will have to be evacuated. Sea levels will rise between one and three feet by the end of this century, and temperatures could rise an average of seven degrees Fahrenheit at the same time, making large sections of Africa and Asia uninhabitable. The subsequent mass migration could dump hundreds of millions of immigrants on our shores.2
Shutdown of large portions of the U.S. energy grid: The U.S. electrical grid is actually three separate electric networks, covering the East, the West, and Texas. Each includes many thousands of miles of transmission lines, power plants, and substations—a 100-year-old amalgamation of local utilities. Much of it is out of date and prone to breakdowns anyway. More recently, the threat of cyber-attack has reared its ugly head. The growing reliance of utilities on Internet-based communication has increased the vulnerability of control systems to spies and hackers. According to national security experts, cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system,3 and perhaps shut down sections of the grid for a very long time.
Civil Unrest: Rising unemployment is squeezing the working class hard, and strikes and protests could spark into riots. Beyond that, the Department of Homeland Security is warning of increased activity among right-wing domestic anti-government groups, ranging from militia movements to borderline terrorists. These aren’t your average tax protestors. Some of them are hell-bent on secession. Others are dupes of the same moneyed interests they are supposedly rebelling against. Homeland Security warns that home foreclosures, unemployment, and other consequences of the economic recession “could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists.”4 While the chances of civil war seem remote, it becomes more likely if the federal government runs out of money. There are many ties holding our country together, but the most important one is that the U.S. government can play sugar daddy to the states, dishing out fat federal subsidies every year. If that gravy train ends, some states may decide to unhitch and go their own way.
Pandemic: Our world is increasingly interconnected, which means it’s easier for germs to get around. Each and every human being on Earth is a living, breathing germ factory, and there are more people on this crowded planet every year. Compounding the problem, the equipment for genetic engineering has become so commonplace that backyard mad scientists called biohackers are tinkering with the building blocks of life, and could easily create new versions of old diseases. The swine flu that seemed to come from nowhere in early 2009 may be a harbinger of much worse to come.
Terrorism: And of course, our favorite boogeyman of the twenty-first century: foreign-based terrorism—dirty bombs, chemical attacks, or some other form of terrorist attack. Think back to the days after 9/11 when many were afraid to leave their houses, people couldn’t fly, and businesses closed temporarily. We don’t want this to happen again, and we hope the government continues to stop potential terrorists in the fastest legal way they can, but we do have to face the fact that there are nasty people out there who would like to disrupt our lifestyle here in the United States.
Any of these disasters could be catastrophic for our highly complex society, but there’s also the potential for a snowball effect: In other words, a global energy crisis could precipitate a financial crisis, which would lead to a food crisis, and perhaps a pandemic. The nightmare scenario is a societal collapse—when a nation or even a civilization breaks down. It’s happened many, many times before in human history, and is almost certain to happen again.
The big-picture disasters can be so scary that people don ’t want to think about them. But by preparing for the smaller-scale disasters: floods, fires, severe storms, and the like—you can take the first steps toward being prepared for the big ones.

The Stages of Collapse

Change is the one constant of the universe. It ’s when change comes too fast that we see it as chaos. And when chaos engulfs a structured, ordered society, that society can come apart at the seams.
In his book Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects, which I highly recommend to anyone, Dmitry Orlov looks at the challenges facing the United States through a unique lens. Orlov was born in Leningrad and immigrated to the United States at the age 12. He grew up to become a computer engineer. As the Soviet Union fell apart, Orlov shuttled back and forth between his new home in the United States and his old home behind the fraying Iron Curtain. He came to the conclusion that Russia was in better shape to survive a collapse than the United States, but that their problems hold lessons for us.
Orlov also wrote an article, “The Five Stages of Collapse,” which he explains as:
1. Financial collapse
2. Commercial collapse
3. Political collapse
4. Social collapse
5. Cultural ccollapse
Orlov believes the United States is undergoing a financial collapse right now. “Financial institutions become insolvent; savings are wiped out, and access to capital is lost,” Orlov writes. Does that sound familiar?
After this comes a commercial collapse, when store shelves are stripped bare of necessities and remain that way for weeks at a time. Hoarding becomes popular.
Political collapse is a breakdown of public order, which Orlov sees as particularly dangerous for the United States because our population is so well armed.
Social collapse is when people lose faith that society will take care of them, and they only look out for themselves and their families and close friends. Finally, in a cultural collapse, even those bonds are shattered.
“If Stage 1 collapse can be observed by watching television, observing Stage 2 might require a hike or a bicycle ride to the nearest population center, while Stage 3 collapse is more than likely to be visible directly through one’s own living-room window, which may or may not still have glass in it,” Orlov writes.5
Human history is crowded with the ruins of civilizations that fell apart. And the track record so far is that all civilizations eventually fail; our own is probably not an exception.
What actually makes a society collapse depends on the place, time, and people. In his book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond talks about how, on Easter Island, the inhabitants literally used up their environment. The Vikings of Greenland got clobbered by climate change and their own refusal to adapt.6
And a bevy of historians have written about how the Roman Empire, probably the most successful long-running civilization in history, ran afoul of a number of things from changing weather and barbarian incursions to poor economic choices and incompetent rulers.
But apart from catastrophic events, what finally brings any society down? In his landmark book, The Collapse of Complex Societies, Joseph Tainter seems to say that a complex society gets more and more complicated until greater and greater investment produces less and less benefit. Finally, the point is reached where investment in complexity no longer brings any increase in benefits. Collapse becomes increasingly probable. At that point, a crisis the society easily weathered earlier in its history—a military loss, drought, resource depletion, and so on—is enough to cause collapse.
Our society is probably the most complex that has ever existed. Bigger and bigger investments in agriculture, medicine, energy, and government are bringing smaller marginal returns.
But all this is still not enough to bring about a civilization’s collapse. In Tainter’s view, a real collapse only happens in a power vacuum. That is the reason Europe did not collapse long ago—if one country fell, it was taken over by its neighbor—and, according to this line of reasoning, is why the next collapse will be global in scale. Because this time, if one of the leading powers of the world goes down, we’re so interconnected that we all go down.
But the worst-case scenario isn’t the only scenario. Even Orlov isn’t completely pessimistic. In his book, he identifies three progressive stages of response to the looming crisis:
1. Mitigation—alleviating the impact of the coming upheaval
2. Adaptation—adjusting to the reality of changed conditions
3. Opportunity—flourishing after the collapse
In other words, after the collapse of what we’ve always known, something else can come along, and people can thrive.

Waves of Chaos Will Change the World Around You

Despite the scary scenarios I’ve outlined so far, I don’t think societal collapse is a done deal. I believe we’re going to see waves of chaos going forward. These chaos waves will trigger disasters and catastrophes that will plunge individuals, groups, and even large populations into situations of great stress—physically, economically, and mentally. These stresses will stretch the fabric of our society to the breaking point. But after a breakdown, the chaos wave will likely recede, and there will be some sort of recovery, perhaps even a return to normal.
As I said earlier, Rome didn’t fall in a day. It took hundreds of years from when the first wave of barbarians crossed the frontier to when Rome itself was finally conquered. Even then, the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantium, hung on for hundreds of years more.
But if you were a Roman citizen unlucky enough to be in one of the areas that quickly descended into chaos, it was a world-changing and potentially fatal event.
Even if our civilization is on a slippery slope, I think we’re still in the early stages. That means you will have to endure periods of chaos, but then government, law, society, and civilization will reassert themselves—eventually. Your goal—your duty if you have children—is to ride through the rough times and come out okay on the other side.

Survive, Thrive, and Discover a More Meaningful Life

The ability to adapt to change will make your life easier, no matter what lies ahead. There are qualities that will make you more successful at changing, and they’re qualities for which you might want to strive—because if you’re not in the right mental and emotional space, then preparing for potentially catastrophic change will be that much harder.
• You have to be adaptable.
• You have to know what’s really important in your life and be prepared to give up or walk away from less important things.
• You have to realize that no person is an island, and you’ll get through any emergency better if you work with your neighbors.
The times we are living in now are the richest, fattest days in human history. Life will probably never get easier. This is when you need to start preparing—right now—for the hard times coming.
Remember, luck favors the prepared, so be prepared and you’re more likely to be able to make your own luck. This book you’re holding in your hands is a guidebook to what could come next, and what you can do to better prepare for it. Stockpiling, self-sufficiency, and frugality, which I prefer to call Spartaneity, are three tools that will help you survive and thrive.
One more thing to keep in mind: The final collapse of the Roman Empire was not bad news for everyone concerned. Archeological evidence indicates that average nutrition actually improved after Rome’s collapse in many parts of the former empire. Individuals may have benefited because they no longer had to invest (i.e., be taxed) to pay for the ever -increasing burden of the empire. If you can survive and thrive after a societal collapse, you may be able to find a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
Also, even Tainter doesn’t believe collapse is inevitable at any given time. He wrote: “When some new input to an economic system is brought on line, whether a technical innovation or an energy subsidy, it will often have the potential at least temporarily to raise marginal productivity.”7
If a new technology or energy source comes along, history ’s wheel can go around for another cycle. That can happen to us, too. The United States and Western civilization as we know it may appear to be coming to a close, but there’s no rule written in stone that says calamity has to happen. And that’s the great thing about the recommendations in this book. Even if society doesn’t collapse, you can use this book to live more efficiently, build up more wealth, and become better prepared for just about any disaster—small- or large-scale.
By now, you are probably thoroughly depressed. Do not put down the book to pick up a drink. If you must, hold the book in one hand and your drink in the other because now is the time for us to review your options …

So, What are Your Options?

If you are a couch potato sitting there worrying about the end of the world, you have my sympathies. I was once a lot like you. But, then I realized there were some choices I could make:
Option 1: Ignore the Problem. You can sit on that couch until you grow moss, playing Wii and eating take-out food, confident the government will rescue you when a bad thing happens. Good luck! In any of the situations I’ve now covered briefly, you can’t count on the police to rescue you. In the event of a calamity, the odds are they’ll find your desiccated corpse surrounded by empty fast-food bags.
Option 2: Move to the Little House on the Prairie. Give up the malls and your favorite coffee shop, buy a goat farm, learn to raise beets and cabbage, and surrender all your fun electronics because you don’t have enough solar power for an Xbox and a man-sized freezer. More power to you if you can make it work; there are some folks going this route.
Option 3: Become Smartera Smart Suburban Survivalist. Stay where you are, enjoy your video games, eat out occasionally, and enjoy your life, while preparing for a variety of potentially disastrous situations. What’s more—you can even get richer, happier, and healthier by preparing for these crises. My family is doing it. Some of our friends are doing it. So can you.
The great unknown is the future. We can ’t know what will happen. You have to look ahead, and prepare for what you can ’t see as well as what you can see.
Getting prepared costs money, and it ’s easy to overspend if you start getting overly scared. Luckily, this book is designed for people who want to learn how they can stretch a dollar and prepare as economically as possible.

Choosing to Plan Over Panic

To quote the late author Douglas Adams, DON’T PANIC. Brain and behavior studies clearly show that when information is scarce and threats seem imminent, people often stop listening to their own logic and look to see what others are doing.
That’s why, in a panic, we have things like riots and ordinary citizens doing smash-and-grabs at the grocery store, pharmacy, and sporting goods store. And you’ll hear about people who go out to get supplies for their family because the television tells them that everyone is doing it and then they get hurt, or worse.
This book is designed to separate you from the herd—from the mass of sheeple who are going to see their gooses cooked in a real collapse.
If you follow the tips in this book, you’ll have a well-stocked pantry so you don ’t have to fight the mob for the last can of Spam at the grocery store. You ’ll have batteries and flashlights or an alternate power source if the grid goes out, and at least a week’s worth of water tucked away so you don’t even have to leave the house if the water supply is interrupted. Your home will be strengthened against the roving bands of thieves and thugs who tend to spring up in dire situations. You’ll be able to sit tight. And that can make the difference between surviving and being a statistic.
What’s more, you’ll have plans in place to make a fast exit to a safer area if things get too dangerous.
But supposing you always find it tough to get organized, or to commit to long-term plans. Then you’ll find a section at the end of each chapter called “The Least You Can Do, ” which will list, literally, the least you can do to store food, become a better shopper, have your house supplied with food and other essentials, get your finances in order, and more.
Let’s start by looking at the disasters you are most likely to experience in this lifetime.


The Most Likely Disasters You ’ll Face
This awful catastrophe is not the end but the beginning. History does not end so. It is the way its chapters open.
—St. Augustine
Sometimes we worry so much about the big disasters that could overtake us—an energy crisis, global financial meltdown, famine, or pandemic—that we don’t prepare for smaller-scale disasters that can still be devastating on a personal or local level. Local disasters will turn your life upside down, but most Americans will watch them with only passing interest, and perhaps even indifference.
The two disasters you’re most likely to face are fire and flood—it’s as simple as that. And yet, most people are completely unprepared for them when they happen. If you do nothing else, skim over these next few pages and write down some notes on what you should do. Importantly, by preparing for fire and flood, you are also starting to prepare for the big, movie-of-the-week disasters that may be coming.
In this chapter, I’ll give you some facts on fires and floods, how to prepare for them, what to do when they happen to you, and some useful web sites. Then we’ll also look at two disasters that could have global impact—an energy crisis and a food crisis.

Two Ordinary Calamities

As mentioned previously, there are two ordinary disasters that we will likely face in our lifetime—fire and flood.


Deadly fires can start in anyone’s home; in fact, there are about 400,000 residential fires in the United States annually. Modern building materials make homes more flammable, not less, so the risks of you having a serious fire are actually rising.
Common places where fires start are the kitchen, laundry room, or fireplace. From 1999 to 2002, 60,000 house fires started due to the improper cleaning or lack of cleaning of washers and dryers. As for fireplaces and chimneys, they cause more fires than oft- maligned space heaters.
Careless smoking causes 15,000 fires a year. And even Christmas trees get in on the action—200 residential fires each year are caused by Christmas trees. But the biggest single cause of careless house fires is candles. Candles alone cause 18,000 home fires every year.
There is good news. Deaths from home fires have decreased by 50% since the 1970s because of public education and the widespread use of smoke alarms. But the candle fire problem has been growing. Half of candle fires are caused by combustible materials coming too close to candles. A whopping 44% of candle fires begin in the bedroom.
How to Prepare. Experts say 80% of all candle fires can be eliminated by four basic safety precautions:
1. Never leave a burning candle unattended.
2. Keep candles away from things that can catch fire.
3. Keep candles away from children and pets.
4. Place candles on secure, heat- resistant surfaces (like ceramic bowls), which will not transmit heat to the furniture on which they are placed.
You should always have a fire extinguisher in your bedroom. Also have at least one for every floor of the house, and the one in the kitchen should be able to put out grease fires.
Peak season for wildfires runs from April through October. Annually, wildfires claim hundreds of thousands of acres, resulting in the evacuation of millions of people. Thousands of homes go up in flames, causing damage estimated in the billions of dollars.
How to prepare: Remove dead branches and trim all trees and shrubs. Cut back trees near your home and roof. Clean gutters and remove debris from your roof. Store fi rewood at least 30 feet from your home.
A wildfi re is a case when you want to plan and practice an evacuation plan from your home and neighborhood that includes primary and secondary routes. Ask someone out of state to be your family contact in case people are separated, and be sure everyone knows the contact’s address and phone number.
Make sure every adult (and the bigger kids) in the house knows how to use the fire extinguisher; hold fire drills. Also, you need smoke detectors on every floor of the house and outside all sleeping areas.


Flooding is the United States’most common natural disaster, and caused more than $7.1 billion in property damage in the 10-year period leading up to Hurricane Katrina (Katrina alone caused more than $81 billion in damages). Flooding occurs in all 50 states, and not just in those areas considered to be at high risk for floods and other disasters. In fact, one in four flood insurance claims is submitted by someone who lives in a low or moderate flood risk zone.1
To find out if you live in a high-risk or a low-risk zone, go to http://www.floodsmart.gov and type in your address and zip code. This will tell you the general flood risk of your area.
How to Prepare. Here’s what you can do to prepare for the risk of flood:2
• Buy flood insurance coverage. Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. It takes 30 days for a policy to go into effect, so don’t wait. You can obtain flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, from your insurance agent. To find an agent near you call 1- 800-427-2419.
• Stay alert during stormy weather. Listen and watch for thunder and lightning. Heavy rain upstream could send a flash flood your way without you even feeling a drop of rain.
• Know your local area. If you live near a dam, keep away from areas downstream of the dam when heavy rains hit. If the dam is breached, this can result in a flash flood. Also, know where the streams and rivers in your area run and locate safe zones of higher ground nearby.
• Take care of your property. Take photos or videos of important possessions. This documentation will help you in filing a flood insurance claim. You might want to store these photos on the Web or in a fire -and-flood proof container. Finally, make a list of items you might want to move as high as possible in the case of a flood, and move them.
• Avoid driving into water more than two feet deep. Nearly half of the deaths associated with flash floods involve vehicles. As little as two feet of moving water can easily carry away most cars and trucks. Abandon your car immediately if it stalls in water, and head for higher ground.
• Elevate your furnace, water heater, washer, and dryer. Admittedly, this involves a bit more effort than a couch potato is likely to exert, but if you’re in a flood-prone area, consider it. It could save you a lot of money in the long run.
• As with fires, when dealing with floods it’s good to plan and practice a flood evacuation route, and have an out-of-state person as your emergency family contact.
Lastly, if you live in an area like New Orleans that could be flooded by waters higher than your rooftop, consider doing two things:
1. Keep a crowbar, hammer, chisel, saw, and other heavy-duty tools, as well as a flashlight, up in your attic. If rising waters chase you up into the attic, you need some way to cut your way out.
2. This last tip isn’t cheap, but you can also buy a life raft that stows in its own suitcase. You can buy a four-person emergency life raft that never needs recharging for $1,150 at http://tinyurl.com/c2gzo2, and you can Google for other options. If I lived in a below-sea-level area like New Orleans, I might keep one of these in my garage.

Two Crises That Will Rock Your World

Now that we have looked at two ordinary disasters that can affect you regionally, let’s explore two global crises you might face in more detail—energy and food. We ’ll also look at some smart ways you can prepare for them without moving to a goat farm.

Energy Crisis: America is Running on Empty

Our civilization runs on oil. If the oil stops flowing tomorrow morning, life as we know it starts to crumble tomorrow night. There is no economy without energy, no transportation besides your own two feet, and no communication beyond the sound of your voice.
Here are some facts that keep me awake at night:
• The United States only has 4.8% of the world’s population, but consumes about 25% of the world’s daily oil use.
• The United States has 3% of the world’s known oil resources (there could be more in offshore fields or locked under ice in Alaska), but pumps about 7% of the world’s production. In other words, we are depleting our resources faster than other parts of the world.
• Since the mid-1980s, oil companies have been finding less oil than Americans have been consuming.
• Of the 65 largest oil producing countries in the world, up to 54 have passed their peak of production and are now in decline, including the United States.
• The world uses a billion barrels of oil every 12 days. We don’t find one-tenth of that. The peak of world oilfield discoveries already occurred way back in 1965.
We are on a collision course with an oil crisis, and would be in even worse shape than we are now if the recession of 2008 hadn ’t downshifted the world’s oil use—for a while, anyway.
Bottom line: We don’t have enough oil to meet our own needs and we cannot drill our way out of this. Pullbacks in oil prices are likely very temporary, and will also likely lead to even higher surges in oil prices—perhaps sharper than anything we’ve seen so far.
Lower oil prices in 2008 lead to droves of oil projects being shuttered in 2009. Non-OPEC oil production probably fell by 2.5 million barrels per day in 2009. A drop that steep, combined with OPEC cuts, could more than make up for the steep fall in global oil demand. In fact, experts say non-OPEC supply should continue to drop in 2010, losing an additional 460,000 barrels a day.
How the Next Oil Crisis Could Be Different—Supply. The high oil prices of 2008 deflated like a blown tire, and previous oil crises—in 1973 and 1979—also ended eventually. Maybe so, but things change.
U.S. oil production peaked in 1970 at about 9.6 million barrels a day. In 1973, we imported about 3.1 million barrels a day. So when the Arabs cut off our imported oil, it hurt, but we could adjust.
Today, the import to domestic production ratio has flipped; we import about two-thirds of our oil. So, when people say we ’re addicted to oil, that’s only part of the problem. The real problem is we’re addicted to foreign oil—much more so than in the past. (See Figure 1.1.)
Figure 1.1 Total U.S. Crude Oil Imports (thousand barrels per day) Source: Economagic.com.
We saw U.S. oil imports drop in 2008 and 2009 due to the recession. Oil imports have dropped every time we’ve had a recession. And every time the recession ends, oil imports go right back up.
In the 1970s, OPEC slapped an embargo on oil shipments as punishment for U.S. support of Israel (in 1973, Israel and Egypt fought the Yom Kippur War). The reason for oil stoppage was political and artificial. However, it caused real conservation in the United States. By 1979, virtually all the big full-size American cars were downsized. When the Iranians turned off the taps, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as the first oil crisis.
And it went beyond cars. Conservation became the buzzword across the United States. President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels and a wood burning stove at the White House. Carter’s energy saving measures were promptly trashed by Ronald Reagan when he took office, as the energy crisis receded in the rear-view mirror.
But America’s conservation proved to be OPEC ’s undoing. When they wanted to sell oil again, we didn’t need as much of it. And without U.S. demand, oil prices plummeted.
This time around, the demand growth isn’t limited to the United States or even the Western world. There are 10 million new cars and trucks hitting the road this year in China alone, and millions more joining traffic jams in India and other emerging markets. OPEC is starting to realize that because of this new demand, they need us a lot less than we need them.