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A big part of the communications we regularly send you pertain to things we believe you should be doing to prepare for an uncertain future.

Sometimes we offer products to help you with tasks such as storing survival food, generating electrical power and purifying water. Other times we simply provide you with how-to’s and life hacks that can make your lives easier and safer.

Today I want to turn the tables a bit. Instead of recommending actions you can take to prepare, I want to tell you 13 things NOT to do.

Errors people make while preparing for a crisis are a waste of time and money. And sometimes they can even set you back in your preparedness journey. 


Mistake No. 1: Failing to practice bug-out activities

Practice makes perfect, so make sure you practice bugging out with members of your household. See how quickly you can get out of the house after turning off the water and lights, grabbing bug-out bags and getting in your car.

Other things you should practice include hiking. Hikes in the woods are good for you physically. But you will also learn much about your environment. The more you do it, the more physically fit you’ll become. And that will help when you have to do it for real.

Also, practice building a fire and building a shelter. And not just in good weather because you may have to do both in the rain or snow. These tasks can become lifesavers. 

Finally, practice purifying water and outdoor cooking. Use a portable water filter to purify water from creeks, streams, lakes, etc. Cooking is a whole new ballgame outdoors when you don’t have as many materials at your disposal.


Mistake No. 2: Failing to keep supplies in multiple locations

Everyone knows how important it is to stockpile food, water and other necessities. There is much less awareness of the need to have your stockpiles in at least two locations. You’re putting all your eggs in one basket if you keep everything in the same place.

A home is a great place to stockpile essentials. It’s where you and your family are most likely to be when the stuff hits the fan. But what if your home is destroyed or severely damaged by whatever crisis occurs?

When considering other locations, there are several important factors to consider. They need to be close enough to get to, yet far enough away that they’re unlikely to be affected by the same disaster that just did a number on your home.

They should offer the same features your home does. A cool, dry place where food and water won’t be affected by sunlight, moisture and extreme temperatures. Possibilities include a storage unit you can rent, a root cellar or a building that a trusted friend owns. 


Mistake No. 3: Failing to stockpile items for bartering

You probably have a very good idea about the things you’ll need and want in a crisis. And you’ve probably included those items in your bug-out bag and supplies stash. But there are other items you should include. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever need them.

Why? Because you’ll be able to use them for bartering. There are plenty of people who will not be nearly as prepared as you following a disaster. If you have items they need, they’ll probably be willing to trade with you. 

We may find ourselves in a scenario someday where money is meaningless. In a post-collapse society, it’s possible the only things of value will be the goods we have stockpiled and the skills we possess. Both of which we’ll probably use for bartering.

There are many items you could hoard for bartering. Focus on ones people might forget to stockpile. Including alcohol, cigarettes, coffee and candy. As well as water filters and fire-starting devices. Plus flashlights, batteries, bug repellent and reading glasses.


Mistake No. 4: Failing to secure your home and possessions

Your home is not only where you keep the majority of your emergency supplies. It’s also the place you’ve spent time and money to secure. If a breakdown in society occurs following a disaster, you need to be prepared to protect your family and belongings.

A secure home can help protect you at a time when you could become a target for thugs. They’ll want to take advantage of law-abiding citizens as society becomes lawless.

Among my tips to accomplish this are installing secure doors and windows, upgrading door locks, and securing your home’s perimeter. Keep doors locked whether home or away. Install an alarm and motion sensor lights. Join a neighborhood watch group.   

If you choose to have guns, practice with them regularly. The more accomplished you are, the better you’ll be able to protect your family and property during an emergency. Stock up on ammunition for each weapon when it’s available. 


Mistake No. 5: Failing to create a family emergency plan

There is nothing scarier for a parent or grandparent than to be separated from their kids or grandkids during a crisis. If a disaster strikes when they are at home or school and you are away, will they know what to do? There’s one way to make sure.

That’s by creating a family emergency plan and regularly discussing it with your family. The plan will include family members’ addresses, cellphone numbers and email addresses. Plus local and out-of-town emergency contacts. And a family meeting place.

Learn the disaster response policies of your kids’ or grandkids’ school and daycare centers. Have at least two pre-arranged meeting places for your family. Returning home might not be possible.

Teach the children how to use 911 and rehearse what they should say to a dispatcher. Practice evacuation routes and strategies as a family. Prepare a small bug-out bag for each child. Keep it near the front door so they know where it is.


Mistake No. 6: Failing to keep important documents in your bug-out bag

There are many scenarios that could cause us to hunker down or bug out at any moment. Extreme weather is the most likely one. Others include another pandemic or an EMP. Or a terrorist attack or an accident causing a long-term blackout.

We may have to quickly access our important documents. Especially if we have to bug out and need to show proof of who we are. And what kind of insurance we possess, whether our pets are vaccinated, etc. Many are not as prepared in this area as they should be.

The key is to keep files containing all your important documents together in a safe place where you can grab them quickly. Actually, you should have at least two sets of all your important documents – one at home and one in another location.

Among these documents are home, auto, health and life insurance policies. As well as copies of photo ID cards and passports. Plus banking information, credit cards, vehicle titles and pet information. And a list of all prescription medicines you take.


Mistake No. 7: Failing to include hygiene and sanitation in your plans

Once the grid goes down, sanitation will become a huge problem. Toilets won’t work after a few days and garbage trucks won’t come around. Rats will show up and eventually disease will run rampant.

Assuming you have bugged out, you’re going to need a makeshift toilet. Things to remember are to not place it near your food or water source, nor uphill from your campsite. It should be at least 200 feet away from your resources. 

Among the waste disposal systems you can construct in the wild are a cat hole, a straddle trench and a slit trench. Google these systems for details. Personal hygiene is also important. It’s crucial to do everything possible to prevent infections and diseases.

Clean your hands regularly. Keep your hair trimmed and clean so it doesn’t attract parasites and fleas. Brush your teeth regularly. Keep your feet clean and your nails trimmed. Treat any blisters that form as quickly as possible. Purify water before use.


Mistake No. 8: Failing to keep your preparations quiet

It’s wise to stockpile as many necessities as you can. But it’s not smart to talk about them. If you let it be known you’ve stored non-perishable food, water and other essentials, you’re likely to receive unwelcome visitors after a crisis occurs.

Neighbors will remember that you’re the guy on their block who can get them through a crisis. And it’s very possible even a friend will turn on you if he and his family are desperate.

Buy your survival food from a company that packages it discreetly. Keep that food and other supplies out of sight within your home. If you’re hunkering down, stay inside as much as possible. Don’t trust anyone new that you meet. 

Buy the quietest generator you can find so no one outside your home knows it’s running. If the grid is down and other houses on your block are dark, try to avoid using it at night for lights. Be careful about outdoor cooking. Smells can attract humans and animals.


Mistake No. 9: Failing to include survival books in your stash

You won’t remember everything you’ve read from 4Patriots and other sources about every aspect of preparedness. You’ll need books on the subject, including field guides.

An Internet search will turn up a lot of them. Among the books you might want to consider are The Prepper’s Pocket Guide, SAS Survival Handbook and Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide.

Now, the more books you have in your survival stash, the heavier your bag will be. And the less room you’ll have for other stuff. Put your survival library on a solar-powered electronic reader.

Among many other books you might want to consider downloading to that reader are How to Stay Alive in the Woods, Wilderness Survival, Outdoor Survival Skills and the U.S. Air Force Pocket Survival Handbook.    


Mistake No. 10: Failing to make sure your children or grandchildren are prepared

 Some parents and grandparents don’t discuss preparedness issues until the kids are in bed. They don’t believe children should have to worry about such things. But mature children will do much better in a crisis if they’re prepared for it.

Teach children that an emergency is when something happens that we don’t expect and we have to act quickly to keep safe. In some emergencies we can stay safe in place. But in others we might have to leave and go to a safe place for a while. 

Flashing lights and loud sirens are not scary. They mean help is on the way. They are bright and loud so they can be seen and heard from far away. Police officers and firefighters are there to help us.

Teach young children their whole name and whole names of caregivers. Help them memorize phone numbers and addresses. Make sure kids know where your emergency meeting place is. Let them participate in building their emergency bug-out bags. 


Mistake No. 11: Failing to include morale boosters in your preparations

Food, water and other essentials are the most important things to stockpile. But it’s amazing what adding some morale boosters will do for everyone’s attitude during a stressful experience.

This could include board games, playing cards, crafts, movies, books and magazines. Surviving could include passing many hours in a manner that does not involve worrying about your predicament.

Another morale booster is “comfort foods.” Nutrition is important, but giving your family an emotional lift with foods you and they love will do wonders for everyone’s state of mind. Keeping attitudes upbeat at a time when depression could easily set in is crucial. 

Among the items you might want to consider are hard candies, chocolate pudding and candy bars. Plus mac and cheese, peanut butter, freeze-dried yogurt bites, granola bars, trail mix, and coffee or tea.


Mistake No. 12: Trying to do it all at once

Something that discourages some people when they’re just beginning to prepare is how much they have to do. They read about how important it is to stockpile plenty of food, water and other essential items. Then about keeping their stash in multiple locations.

Then they learn about securing their home better, practicing bug-out activities, etc. It seems overwhelming to them, so they decide not to do it. That’s a big mistake. They probably have plenty of time. But they need to at least get started now.

By starting slowly and gradually building up your supplies and know-how, you’ll be amazed at how much progress you’ll make. You’ll look back one month from now and realize how much you accomplished. You’ll wonder why you didn’t begin sooner.

The key is to stop putting it off and get started. It only requires a few dollars each time you do it. Just make sure you add at least one item to your stockpile and at least one piece of information to your mind every week. You’ll make progress quickly.


Mistake No. 13: Failing to acquire a solar-powered generator 

I saved this one for last. Not because it’s the least important of the bunch. But rather because it may be the most important and I want you to remember it. 

Too many people have become sickened or died due to the misuse of gas-powered generators. 

They were desperate to heat their home during a winter storm or cool their home during a heat wave. So, they used a gas generator inside their home. Carbon monoxide poisoning was the result.

If you absolutely have to use a gas-powered generator, keep it outside and away from doors and windows. Better yet, get a solar-powered generator that’s safe to use inside.    

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