Matthew Stein: How Prepared Are You?

Safewrite - Thanks, that does help explain. Where was the previous discussion thread you mentioned?

While a "go bag" is a reasonable safety net, it makes more sense to be proactive and move to the spot you'd like to be ahead of a potential crisis.  Mat makes some excellent points in his discussion, and I'd suggest that most of those points are better addressed on the front end of a crisis than on the back end.  
If you're truly concerned that we're approaching some sort of collapse, then do your research, pick the place you think offers the best option for the future and move there as soon as possible. 

My personal opinion, for whatever it's worth, is that you should set up your personal living situation with both ends of the spectrum in mind.  You want to be happy and comfortable if things keep on mucking along for another 30 or 40 years - no point moving into a cave unless you love living in caves - but you also want to be resilient, with the kind of built-in redundancies that will make life easier in the event things take a turn for the worse.

Two more things to consider.  The first is that skills, both physical and mental, are far more important than whatever you're going to stuff in your go bag.  It's not that hard to make a bow drill fire, or build a shelter that will keep you warm and dry - but you have to know how.  The second is that community is indeed the key.  And for some strange reason, it's always easier to join that perfect community before things go all to hell.  


I've been replying to various comments from others pertaining to this podcast, so just look around at the other comments as sorted with threads…

IIn general, almost everyone would rather shelter in place rather than "bug out". However, life is often messy, and your well laid plans could be abruptly disrupted by reality. You will  take your skills with you wherever you go, unless you become very ill or are otherwise incapacitated. Your "cool stuff" may well disappear in a catastrophe where it has to be left behind, disappear slowly in the event of a long term collapse, or disappear quickly when a tough well-armed and well-organized opponent takes it from you.There are no hard and fast "rules" only "guidelines". I believe that mother nature built into our DNA the most incredible survival mechanism in the form of intuition, "gut feel", "spirit guides" the "holy spirit" or whatever else you may wish to call it. This is a higher source that can "see around the corner" and help you make critical decisions in an instant, if necessary, with little or no information at your finger tips to make a truly rational decision. Some of us will experience a relatively peaceful but more physically toilsome existence in a collapse type scenario, while others may be swept into a violent bloody and messy aftermath. I would prefer the more peaceful scenario, but honestly hope it will be neither. Time will tell…
Your point about the country folks not necessarily taking kindly to refugees, such as the case of Sudan, is well taken. However, as in Sudan, the reality of those refugees is that had they stayed where they were, then they would have probably suffered horrible deaths, which is why they are on the move and have left their homes to become refugees.  Most true widespread disaster leave lots of refugees, and most of those refugees you see walking down the road after a disaster probably though it would never happen to them.
In my own case, even though I live in the country, it is also at 6,000 foot elevation in an area that frosts 10-11 months of the year and is therefore not a great place to grow food. For the short term, sheltering in place is our preferred course. However, if it looks like the infrastructure may be down for an extended period of time, we are partnered with our son and his wife who live a few hundred miles away in a much better place to grow food, but a much worse place to make a living. We help them out financially when we can and have purchased a modest solar panel array for their off-grid homestead, so they don't have to use their generator all the time like they used to at .
As for protection, I understand the necessity for this, and even though I was a pretty good shot and a fair hunter when I grew up hunting and fishing in Vermont, this is an area where I acknowledge that I sorely need to update my skills, expand my tools and supplies, and practice, practice, practice! Thankfully my son is way ahead of me in this area (he complains I am too much of a pacifist).
I also agree that community is where it is at. No one can know and do it all. People are social animals and generally do much better in groups. There is also considerable safety in numbers, especially when marauding teams of bandits start picking off easy prey. So, how do you balance making a living with building relationships in a resilient community? Do the best you can within your means. If it means moving to a smaller more resilient and sustainable location, and you have the means to do so, go for it. If it means staying in the city and building connections outside of the city along with contingency plans, then so be it. There is no one right answer, just the right answer for yourself. And the answer that seems "right" today, may not feel right somewhere down the line, so listen to that inner compass and try to learn to distinguish the voice of fear from the voice of true guidance. I will say this, when it is true guidance speaking, it is unwavering and usually calm (though in a crisis it may seem to be literally yelling at you to take a particular action). The voice of fear or the ego tends to jump around and flip flop, a sure sign that it is not true guidance and not to be trusted.
Good luck!

5000 people hardly qualifies your place as a "city". In my book this is a town of a size that is big enough to harbor a diverse skill set within the townspeople, yet small enough to be fairly well fed and for life to work reasonably well through trade and barter. Sounds like a fine place to be when and if the SHTF. discussed include not just population, but rainfall, climate, earthquake zones, and…
The best comment IMHO by Jager 06:

Judging by the situations that developed in New Orleans during Katrina, I would avoid any place with a large population of social dependancy. People who are chronically on some sort of aid, be it welfare, food stamps or other, tend to be unable to do for themselves as a result of having their needs met without obligation. I would gauge that population breakdown in terms of pre recession/ depression populations.

Spent pools or runaway reactions - either one sounds pretty bad to me.  Add proximity to major population centers, and it get upgraded to nighmare. 

[quote=treemagnet]Spent pools or runaway reactions - either one sounds pretty bad to me.  Add proximity to major population centers, and it get upgraded to nighmare. 
One is a self sustaining critical reaction and requires cooling and containment to prevent release of fission products to the atmosphere. 
The other is spent fuel which is incapable of sustaining a critical reaction - because it's spent.  Because it is full of neutron absorbing fission product poisons trapped within the structural integrity of the zircalloy fuel matrix and zirc cladding.  Because it's decay heat generation rates are so low they don't require forced, pressurized circulation of coolant to remove generated heat.  Because referencing a design based "boil away" scenario is ridiculous as NONE of the spent fuel stored in the Fukushima Daiichi pools had just been removed from a core power unti with a 100% operating power history.  Because other than from a radiation exposure standpoint, the spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi turned out to never be in play as so inaccurately and incorrectly reported here. 
It's only a nightmare when people who don't know what they are talking about tell the story.  Otherwise it is a significant and severe, but localized event.

The folks on the left coast might disagree with you…not so "localized" - George Washington (?) posts, usually on ZH would likely disagree with you, but neither he nor I are up on the issue as you.  Nobody really knows how bad Fukishima really was/is because of the lies and corruption.  What I know for sure, is nowhere in the Westinghouse Mark IV manual does it state "spray sea water on it".  Your big on nuclear energy, I'm not.  The reason I'm not is because the publics interest is always a bidable item for a wide ranging group of powerful, connected, and corruptable people.Heres the quote you'll likely highlight in your response to the gallery:
Nuclear energy can either be safe or cheap, but not both.
Now, before you take me for the antagonist - know that I would be an believer of nuclear energy if it were safe.  More expensive I can live with - but the safety risks aren't worth a few cents/kwh, at least not to millions like me.  Is thorium the way to go?

tree -
The folks on the left coast and GW would disagree because they are speaking from a position of ignorance.  Their sources claiming widespread dispersal of contamination are also fabrications.  I saw stories that claimed to have detected radioactivity in broad leaf crops like beets and lettuce.  The problem is these alledged levels were measured and reported well before the minimum biological uptake times for such plants.  Yet the reports were eaten up faster than a fat kid with a bag of Krispy Kremes…
Yes, measurable contamination reached the west coast.  We saw spikes in beta emitters here in Virginia.  But measurable doesn't necessarily mean a level worth worrying about.  Especially if previously measured background levels detected nothing.  Like the widely reported spikes in cesium detected in the kelp beds off California in the weeks following Fukushima Daiichi.  That was significant because it was Cs-137, which was released during the Fukushima Daiichi accident.  The biologists who conducted the study were going to repeat it this past spring to see if the levels had changed.  I haven't been able to find anything but if they did the samples the same time this year as last, the report should be coming out soon.  I would expect that the levels will have dropped consistent with the effective half life (biologic elimination by the kelp and the normal decay half life for Cs-137) - assuming their sampling quipment has sufficient sensitivity to measure the fractional decrease.  Any drop larger than the effective half life would call nto question the original sampling validity and accuracy.  No matter - Cs-137 was there and it came from Japan.  But despite what GW wants you to believe, it was not dispersed up and down the west coast - it was detectable, but the levels were nothing to worry about.  At least not to the informed.
I don't see you as an antagonist - far from it.  Asking questions is good.  Listening to and understanding correct answers is also good.  For the record, the Casualty Procedures do indeed direct the injection of seawater for emergency cooling, but only as a last resort.  Which is clearly where the emergency response crews at Fukushima Daiichi were.
100% agreement with your comment that Nuclear Energy can either be safe or cheap, but not both.  That's why each student in the Navy's Nuclear Power Program has a taxpayer investment of about $150K worht of schooling and prototype training before they ever report to a submarine or carrier.  But then again, the Navy's track record with safe operation of nuclear power plants is light years past the commercial industry.
Thorium…here's my take.  The mechanism is well understood.  The benefits vs. "normal" traditional nuclear fuel is clear.  You still have to build the plants out of steel and concrete, you still require significant input of finite resources just to build the supporting infrastructure.  There's the Achille's Heel for thorium.

I'm with Aaron: mega cities during most SHTF scenarios aren't as bad as most people assume, and have some advantages in some situations.  Disclosure: I live in an east coast US mega city, but plan to downsize to a small city (50-100K population) at retirement.  Furthermore, I'm a first responder and don't have the option of bugging out early, before everyone else, which in my mind is about the only way to avoid the extreme dangers of bugging out where rule of law is in doubt or gone.Bugging out is extremely dangerous, unless you leave very early in the crisis when hardly anyone else is leaving and predators haven't smelled the blood in the water yet and set up their ambushes, "check points." I'd rather defend my well-prepared home in the big city during a riot than attempt to leave at the height of the crisis.
Urban infrastructure generally gets the most attention after a disaster because so many people are affected and the actions taken to restore service affect the most people at once.  In the most recent unpleasantness in Yugoslavia towns and cities were not overrun by warlords because they contained enough armed people to repel them and their forces.  Sure, conditions in those towns and cities were horrendous, but they didn't all end up in a couple of mass graves in a farm field next to their village.  I can easily walk or bike to at least 4 world class hospitals/trauma centers - bet you can't say that about your bug out location.  Of course, a SHTF scenario will degrade these institutions' supplies and personnel, but I'll take them in a disaster over a 25-100 bed regional hospital anytime (how many gunshot wounds have the staff at your hospital dealt with, and how many at one time?).  And if you're a food producer, the big city is a big fat customer and the easiest to supply.  If you grow apples, for instance, would you rather sell your whole crop to a buyer for a big city in advance of harvest who will send trucks or rail cars for the crop, or would you like to sit by the side of the road selling them and delivering the rest to local retailers?  My wife and I both can get to work on foot, on a bike, on public transit, and by car if gasoline is available.  Likewise, we can shop and do everything else we need to do with or without cars.  I'm not very handy, but if I need something fixed (a car, an appliance, etc.) I have and would have many, many options (especially since I can pay with cash or silver or even food and potable water).  If I want or need to take a long trip and gasoline is unavailable or prohibitively expensive, I can walk to a major Amtrak station or take public transit to the airport (if either is still operating).
Many thousands of dependent people and anti-social predators will be the biggest threat to us, until they start dying off or giving up.  Of course, we've been dealing with that for 24 years here and have some skills and attitudes necessary for survival already.  Besides, look at any instance of civil disorder in America's cities in the past 50 years and you will see several commonalities: the unrest and predators largely avoid locations where residents and business owners are armed and standing guard, and whatever unrest happens is usually restricted to a few hot spots (chances are you'll be fine if you are one of the great majority who aren't in any of those hot spots).
I'm not of the belief that megacities are the ideal location in a SHTF situations, but they aren't as bad as most people make out, especially if you, your family, and your neighbors are prepared.

thc0655: Everyone chooses where they will prepare based on their work, their personality, their options , and their personal skills, preferences and beliefs. Your location makes sense to you, Mat Stein's location makes sense to him,  and my location makes sense to me. This article was titled "How Prepared Are You?" and you've made a choice and are preparing based on that choice.
What heartens me is that you've thought your scenario through. As a former first responder, I salute you.

Hey Safewrite,
I think - and I can't speak for THC - but that the original podcast/conversation essentially "broadformed" the issue of location by lumping city dwellers into the "not prepared" category, and emphasizing the Bug out Bag and a travel plan as part of their proposed plan.

Not a problem - if that's how you want to plan, all good! Everyone here knows where I stand on the issue of Everyday Carry and planning, but the juncture that I depart from the mainstream prepper mentality (and again, I think THC as well) is the assumption that being in the city is not only a hazard, but it's a tremendous liability.

I know you know all this, but for any readers who might be skimming through wondering how these conclusions were drawn, hopefully this will help. 

So, here's what I'm basing my "stay put" plan on - I put myself in the role of a bad guy, and a lot of this is from having fallen for some of these things in the past: 
If I wanted to take things from people, how would I do it?
Where would I go to do it?
What kinds of ruses would I use? Tools? Accomplices?
In the urban environment, that element of anonymity works in your favor, and petty crimes are pretty easy to execute. However, in the country, the risk, and payoff are higher. This attracts more competent aggressors.
I'd like to use the example of the video CK presented: 
The men in that video are scavenging through other peoples stuff. What do I infer from that?
They lack resources, and probably a central location. They're staking places out, and are well armed (The older guy had 13 30 round magazines that I could see - which is about what a riflemen in a Ranger Regiment would carry) so - what do they do when they come in contact with a farm that's well equipped, established and self-sustaining?
Well, maybe they're good guys and they bring a very intimidating security element to a family of strangers. Dicey, but it might work out.
They also have the option to assault the place, take everything and move on after they've used the resources. Both kinds of people exist, and most of them are planning to "bug out"… 

The equipment I advocate is not specific to bugging out or staying put. It's useful in either situation. It gives you options that are lightweight and skill-based. Mat's suggestions are fine, but I'd rather have a 55-gallon drum as a rain barrel draining into a cistern than have to carry two or three water purifying devices for an overland trek that actually be a Darwinian struggle for survival.

Anyway, this is all stuff people should think about, and I'm really enjoying reading the dialog here.


Why not stock the filter, SteriPen AND the 50 gallon drum? Hope for the best, but plan for the worst…

Regarding spent fuel ponds, since there is roughly 10 Chernobyls worth of spent fuel in each of the spent fuel ponds at Fukushima (American spent fuel ponds each average about 17 Chernobyls worth of radioactive material), and given the fact that two of those ponds are precariously perched on top of roofs of buildings that have been blown to pieces, and since if those fuel ponds either boil dry or run dry for any other reason, then  the spent fuel rods cool will overheat igniting their zirconium cladding (burns like magnesium with intense self sustaining fire, once ignited),  turning into radioactive roman candles burning with "zirc" fires that will explode if sprayed with water, then I would say this is an extremely dangerous situation that has been for the most part forgotten and ignored by the media!According to Japanese engineers, the technology does not currently exist for robots that can withstand the intense radiation levels inside these spent fuel pods in order to begin removing the debris from the explosions and unloading the spent fuel rods. They estimate it will take a 3-5 year development program to develop the technology to perform these tasks, and another 5 years to actually clean up the blast debris and remove the spent fuel rods from the pond. In the meantime these ponds are precariously perched atop severely damaged structures in a highly active seismic zone!
For a very sobering visual tour of Fukishima's severely damaged buildings and spent fuel ponds, see:

Yes, and with 104 working nuclear reactors in the US, and over 90 spent fuel ponds with an average of 17 Chernobyl's worth of radioactive material in each pond, there are several scenarios where the US could have multiple Fukushima like events concurrently!  Dr. William Graham, former chief scientific adviser to Ronald Reagan and chairman of the bipartisan Congressional EMP Commission wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with copies sent to various congressional staff Last August stating this same opinion!
See page 1 of Dr Graham's letter at :

I agree that the spent fuel ponds would not normally go critical, however the "boil dry" scenario and threat is very real. I gleaned this information from the US government's technical report on this issue, NUREG-1738, “Technical Study of Spent Fuel Pool Accident Risk at Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants,” February 2001, as reported in “Petition for Rulemaking: Docket No. PRM-50-96,” Foundation for Resilient Societies before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, p. 3-9 and 49-50.
Available at:

Since we have not yet solved the problem of what to do with radioactive waste that will last 100,000 years, and have not found a way to make our reactors foolproof and resistant to both terrorist acts and acts of Mother Nature, I don't see how we can call our nuclear reactors "safe" as they are currently designed.With only  7 days backup fuel mandated at US facilities, to keep cooling systems running when the grid is down, and only 30 days worth of fuel on hand at the better prepared (voluntarily) nuke plants, considering official EMP commission estimates of 4 months to several years to put the grid back together in the event of an extreme geomagnetic solar storm or a successful EMP attack by a terrorist group or hostile state, we could be in serious trouble at any time. It is just an matter of the luck of the draw from Mother Nature (official scientific report recently estimated a 12% chance of Carrington Event size extreme geomagnetic storm withing the next decade) or relying on the CIA, FBI and US military to prevent an EMP attack from a terrorist organization or hostile state (an EMP attack would almost certainly cripple the digital control systems and backup generators at a number of nuclear power plants, resulting in immediate Fukushima-like melt-downs).

[quote=Mat Stein]Regarding spent fuel ponds, since there is roughly 10 Chernobyls worth of spent fuel in each of the spent fuel ponds at Fukushima (American spent fuel ponds each average about 17 Chernobyls worth of radioactive material)
This is an utterly worthless metric.  Show me the credible scenario by which this radioactivity would be released.

Huh?!?  None of the spent fuel pools are perched on "top of the roofs" of buildings.  Precariously or otherwise.  Besides, how does a building that has been blown to pieces even have a roof?
Do you understand what decay heat generation is?  Do you understand that it is an exponential decay function?  Do you understand that spent fuel pools are not pressurized above ambient and require no forced circulation for removal of the small amount of decay heat that is generated?  Do you understand that the water in spent fuel pools is for shielding of the extremely high radiation levels emitted by the spent fuel cells?  Do you understand that the pools at Fukushima Daiichi are intact?  Do you understand that under the right conditions (that don't exist at Fukushima Daiichi) zirconium burns like zirconium, not magnesium?  Do you understand that the likelihood of a spent fuel pool zirc hydride fire at Fukushima is less likely than Kim Kardashian winning the Nobel Peace Prize in Physics?  Now do you understand why the media has forgotten it?

You better hire new Japanese engineers…
Removal of fuel cells from Unit #4 storage pool started back in July.  The first several fuel cells removed were new and had not been exposed to a neutron flux and are safe to store in air.  Removal of the remaining cells will take place through the coming months and will take several years to complete.  The big question now is where the spent fuel removed from Fukushima Daiichi is to be stored.

Mat -
They won't abnormally go critical either.  They are spent fuel and contain far too many fission product poisons that absorb neutrons and would therefore inhibit criticality.
I gleaned that information from 20 years of hands on experience in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.