Practical Prepping

Been in the grocery store lately? Notice the canned goods, and rice shelves seem a bit light?

Preppers, with their bunkers full of food, complex off-grid water and electric systems, and arsenals suitable for a small army are typically targets of ridicule on the Internet. Perhaps deservedly so, but when the US markets unload $3 trillion in a week over a measly 63 cases of COVID-19, perhaps just a little of that prepper paranoia is warranted?

If we look objectively at what happend in China, who by most reports is now on the downhill side of the outbreak, how would similar containment measures be received if applied in the US? Social distancing policies including home confinement, closure of workplaces, and public spaces like schools, libraries and government offices, shutdown of public transportation, and more? Not well at all, I’d hazard. In fact, I’d put good money on downright panic.

But how likely are such measures to come to fruition in the US? Obviously, that’s anyone’s guess. If we look to the CDC, their concern over COVID-19 is undeniable. Are we going to die from it? Yeah, that’s pretty darn unlikely – 2.3% case-fatality rate as of the latest data. Thus far in fact, a good 80% of those infected experience no worse than cold symptoms. And while this is just another in a long line of Coronaviruses, this one does has some clever twists like an asymptomatic contagious period and a relatively long survivability outside of a host – in some reports as long as 9 days. These are interesting variables that could very well lead to recommendations of social distancing in the coming months in the US as the virus spreads (and it will).

The Denver Post put things in terms Coloradans truly understand. Treat COVID-19 like a really bad winter weather event. Have enough provisions on hand for a few weeks to “ride out” the storm. Every Coloradan knows well the experience of missing the forecast, then dashing to Soopers only to find the beer, bread, and milk completely wiped out. I personally think the Post’s advice is sound. COVID-19 is the 18-24″ blizzard that may be downgraded to 3-6″ but do you really want to be caught without Charmin?

Yeah, without sounding alarmist, now is a very good time to make a stock-up run. If government recommended social distancing comes to fruition, remember our modern life is very much a just-in-time economy. Grocery store shelves are stocked nightly from regular deliveries. Gas station tanks only hold a day or two of fuel. If shipments get delayed, shortages and panic buying are inevitable. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to prepare now and stay home for some serious Netflix binging while the chaos ensues outside? Worst (best?) case, once the dust settles, you’ll have some canned & dry goods to donate to the local food bank.

Unlike natural disasters like fires and hurricanes, I don’t believe public infrastructure like power and water are at risk here. I personally wouldn’t be breaking my back toting five gallon water jugs or rushing to the hardware store for a dual-fuel generator for COVID-19. Instead, I would focus on the three “Fs”: Food, Fuel, and Firepower. These are the three that are most likely to be impacted by short-term outages while the economy restarts and people get back to work.

Food doesn’t need to be anything extreme, just a few weeks worth of non-perishable foods for the family. Think rice, beans, canned goods, pastas, freeze some meats if you got room, and if you’re a baker, an extra bag or two of flower to make your own breads. Don’t buy food you wouldn’t normally eat. MREs taste like ass. Don’t forget your neighborhood network either. Nothing wrong with bartering some fresh-baked bread for some eggs from the neighbor with the chicken coop.

For fuel, top off your vehicle gas tanks and fill up those lawnmower cans. Just remember gas goes bad so fill your own vehicle from the gas cans and refresh them a couple times a year or mix in some fuel stabilizer like STA-BIL. House run on propane? Go ahead and give the gas man a call and ask for a fill up this month. Nothing worse than a cold house and the gas man can’t get to you for another week.

I know “firepower” can be triggering for some, but for 45% of the population, guns are a complete non-issue and ammo shortages tend to have very long recovery times. You’re gonna use it anyway plinking at the range or busting clays once the weather turns nice so there’s no harm in checking your inventory and stocking up. Remember the .22 LR shortages and rationing? That nonsense lasted years and no Coronavirus was involved!

In closing, here’s a quick list of other items to consider while making your prepper run. Yeah, you may feel a bit silly, but in the remote chance things do go sideways for a few weeks, won’t you be glad you had your family covered? Even if COVID-19 turns out to be a big nothing, it definitely won’t be the last public health crisis we face in our lifetimes. Practice makes perfect for the practical prepper!

  • Prescriptions
  • Over-the-counter cold/flu meds (even if you get sick, home may be better than a germy hospital)
  • 1st Aid gear (normal boo-boo stuff)
  • Pet supplies (kibble, litter for the kitties, meds if applicable)
  • TP & other paper products
  • Extra trash can or two (or a place to store accumulated bags away from the critters)
  • Personal hygiene products including hand sanitizer
  • Entertainment for all ages (books, board games, movies, etc)
  • Batteries (for remotes, toys, etc)
  • Vices (cigarettes, booze, weed)
  • Petty cash

P.S. Skip the surgical masks. You look stupid as hell and they don’t help one bit. Carry a bottle of PURELL and wash your hands regularly instead, you filthy animal!

OK, after reading many reports from Korea and Taiwan, I’m revising my position on masks.  Through their extensive testing, they’ve found up to 20% of SARS-CoV-2 carriers are asymptomatic. So yeah, wear a surgical mask (or make your own) to minimize your own potential spread of the virus. Please leave the N95 masks for the professionals, however.