Skip to content

Are you a prepper now?

I am 60 miles to the east of the epicenter of this earthquake.

What next? We are in the midst of a pandemic that is getting worse in many areas, including the state I live in. A severe tropical storm just moved up the Atlantic coast. That was only the first blow from what is likely to be a long, and severe, Atlantic hurricane season. The country is on edge, because of the American political situation, which, when it doesn’t create turmoil, creates paralysis and rewards incompetence. And this morning, to remind many of us on the East Coast that nature bats last, North Carolina, where earthquakes are pretty rare, had a 5.1 earthquake that was felt from Atlanta to Washington. It was the strongest earthquake in North Carolina since a 5.2 earthquake in 1916 — not very dangerous, but disturbing. Many times, having living in San Franciso for 18 years, I have felt buildings shake in moderate earthquakes. This was the first time I’ve felt this little house in the Appalachian foothills shake.

I was pretty well prepared for the lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic. But being prepared is an ongoing project. Being prepared costs money, so most people have to go about it incrementally. There are many guides on “prepping” to be found, so there is no need for me to reinvent that wheel here. But let’s think about what we have learned from the Covid-19 lockdown.

For one, there will be shortages as supply lines are disrupted and people begin to hoard things. Whatever was hard to find in your location should now be on your radar screen for future preparedness. Once the hoarding and panic buying begins, it’s too late. It’s necessary to think about these things in advance.

One of the things I’ve learned during the Covid-19 lockdown is how beneficial it can be to coordinate with your neighbors. Many things can be shared, which reduces the expense of being prepared and increases your security. We should all try to establish preparedness pods with our most trusted neighbors. It takes a village. If you have neighbors with lots of tools and know-how, as I do, then you are very lucky. And I can do things that they can’t do, such as handling communications, by Morse code if need be. I have things, and know-how, that they don’t have.

Everyone should be prepared to get by without outside help or outside supplies for at least three weeks or so. We should increase that time at an affordable rate. And we should look at ways of extending our independence for everything that is essential — food, water, and energy, to start.

For years, I’ve considered the greatest risks in the area where I live to be, first, pandemics; and second, widespread or grid-down power failures. Sooner or later, no matter where you live, you’re probably going to lose electricity. Candles, batteries, and flashlights will get you through short outages, such as the outages caused by thunderstorms. For longer outages, you’re going to need a generator, and some solar, if possible. (To be able to get by without electricity other than solar would be ideal, but that would involve some advanced prepping.)

When I built the abbey, I had a house-size, code-compliant transfer switch installed, waiting for the day I acquired a generator. Since then, though, I have soured on the idea of whole-house generators. This is because those generators — except for those that are extremely expensive — don’t put out clean power. Rather than a sine wave, the output will be a “modified” sine wave or even a square wave. There is no way I would expose my refrigerator, heat pump, well pump, etc., not to mention my electronics, to such dirty power. The risk of damage, as I see it, would be too high.

An affordable compromise is an “inverter” generator. These are smaller, but they’re adequate for refrigerators and most appliances. They’re safe for computers and electronics. They contain a small, gasoline-powered engine, an alternator with rectifiers (much like the 12-volt system in your car), an inverter to convert the direct current to 60Hz alternating current, and a capacitor circuit to smooth the wave form into a decent (if not perfect) sine wave. I bought the Westinghouse WH2200iXLT because its specifications are explicit about a promised THD value (total harmonic distortion) of less than 3 percent. As with many prepper items, once you need these things, it’s usually too late to buy them, because they sell out.

If you’re not yet a prepper, now is a good time to think about your situation, and then to get started. A three-week time line is a requirement. Six months is a good goal. I’m a liberal prepper. It’s not about guns. It’s about providing for yourself, and working with your community to be as locally self-sufficient as possible.


  1. Grace Mason wrote:

    Crazy times, and getting crazier by the day. I’m curious to know if you have a root cellar, and if not, do you use anything for long term vegetable/fruit storage?

    Monday, August 10, 2020 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Grace… I don’t have a root cellar, though I would like to have one. A neighbor and I have discussed the possibility of finding a suitable cast-concrete cube and burying it in a bank for that purpose. Do you have a root cellar?

    Monday, August 10, 2020 at 11:33 am | Permalink
  3. Grace Mason wrote:

    Not yet. We just purchased some land and will build on it eventually. I’ve been looking at a few options for a root cellar that would double as a storm cellar. I’ve heard of people buying new concrete septic tanks and using that with some modifications. I’ve just been keeping potatoes and stuff under the house for now.

    Monday, August 10, 2020 at 12:10 pm | Permalink
  4. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Grace: Precast items such as septic tanks are very attractive options. Every community has local companies that can do what’s needed to plant them. If you have an embankment, the steeper the better, to plant it in, so much the better. My thinking is that radiation emergencies are not our chief worry at present. But a root cellar and storm cellar also would make a fine radiation cellar. My plan for a radiation emergency is to use my basement, hoping that there would be enough warning to place some sand bags. A fallout shelter is not a priority to me at present, but if building a root shelter or storm shelter, it would be good to keep radiation in mind. As for storm shelters, as you know, there is always a risk of high wind and tornados in this area. Storms keep getting stronger.

    Monday, August 10, 2020 at 6:40 pm | Permalink
  5. Chenda wrote:

    Very much agree David. I think you choose very well the location of Acorn Abbey all those years ago. The standard ‘Prepper’ advice of moving to some remote fortress in the mountains is, imo, very misguided. Avoiding big cities makes sense, but its better to be in or near a town, or even a small city. Stronger supply lines, law enforcement, medical care and other essentials like, as you say, good neighbours. Nothing wrong with rural, but excessive isolation makes you vulnerable, and may be impractical for most people. I read about how many wealthy New Yorkers quickly relocated to their second homes up state or on long island at the start of the pandemic. A similar thing happened here, as those that could went out to their second homes in the countryside to ride out the pandemic. I expect the ancient Romans used to do the same 🙂

    Saturday, August 15, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *